Sunday, October 04, 2009

Why Should I Pay a Disability Lawyer if I can Handle the Case Myself

I found a statement similar to the title of this post in a forum recently. And it reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with an older gentleman who been denied (he was only in his mid-fifties, but that's older to some) on his social security disability application. He was typical of some prospective new clients in that he had quite a few questions: what does representation involve, how much does it cost, how long will the case take, what are the chances of winning, etc, etc. Near the end, though, he blurted out that he didn't see the need for representation since he was of the mind that he could handle his case satisfactorily on his own. So I essentially told him the following:

1. No claimant is required to have representation on a social security disability or SSI disability claim, at any level of the system, including the hearing level, the appeals council review of an administrative law judge's decision, or district court.

2. If a claimant decides to have representation, they can choose to have either a non-attorney claimant's representative, or a disability lawyer, meaning an attorney who handles SSD and SSI cases (hopefully, this attorney specializes in social security versus being one who handles a little bit of personal injury, a little bit of traffic, and a little bit of disability--you really do want a specialist versus someone who doesn't even know the basic concepts involved in the SSA disability system).

3. Many claimants do just fine without representation.

4. Many claimants win their cases at the initial claim (disability application) and reconsideration levels without the use of a disability representative. A sizable percentage of claimants who go to hearings by themselves also win their disability claims.

After some more discussion, this individual decided he did, in fact, want representation. Why? Perhaps because he felt comfortable with the information I had given him, or the manner in which I had relayed it to him. Perhaps, as well, it was because I had explained---

A) How long it can take to get to a disability hearing (he had been denied on his initial claim and needed to file a request for reconsideration---since reconsideration appeals are overwhelmingly denied, he was most likely heading to a hearing at some point),

B) The fact that many ALJs (administrative law judges) will advise claimants who show up unrepresented that they can reschedule for the purpose of obtaining representation,

C) Claimants with representation have a statistically higher chance of being awarded benefits.

I think what he took away from the conversation was that hearings take too long to get to and are too important to simply take a chance on not being as prepared as possible. And from my perspective, as I informed him, that involved having representation.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

Other Posts

If you get Denied, File Your Social Security Disability Appeal Quickly
Why are Most Disability Cases Denied?
Filing for Disability - SSD application tips
Filing for Disability - Tips for Filing a Disability Appeal
Crohn's Disease Social Security Disability SSI - Applying for Disability
Disability Benefits for Mental Illness (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression)
Filing for Disability - SSD application tips
Filing for Disability - Tips for Filing a Disability Appeal


Blogger Card said...

I work at an SSA Hearings and Appeals office, and I'll say that I hand out lists of free legal services on a daily basis. I only refer people to free services, because I feel it'd be ethically wrong to send people to people charging them fees.

The rule tends to be that the people who are represented have a much more developed case than those handling it on their own. Of course there are people who are more than prepared for their hearing, but they're definitely the exception.

I agree that having someone, Attorney or Non-Attorney Rep, who does straight disability cases is a huge asset to the majority of claimants.

8:04 AM  

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