Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is the Disability Process Faster if you have a Lawyer?

Having a disability lawyer or a non-attorney claimant's representative at the initial disability claim level generally does not make the disability process go any faster in and of itself. Typically, representation saves a claimant from wasting considerable time in the following scenarios:

A) The disabled individual is not able to complete their disability application and return the necessary forms.

B) The individual misses their appeal deadline following the receipt of a denial notice.

C) The individual, following the receipt of a denial, confuses filing a new disability application with the filing of an appeal (Yes, many people seem to think that filing a new claim is synonymous with filing an appeal and following through on this misunderstanding only has the effect of wasting months of valuable time--more valuable, of course, if lost wages are putting one's home in jeopardy).

If you have memory problems or a mental condition that might prevent you from providing information or returning forms timely, or you simply feel overwhelmed after being denied for disability and, for that reason, may be likely to miss an appeal deadline, then you may want to consider getting a lawyer or non-attorney rep to help you with your disability application and claim.

Most disability applicants probably consider getting a lawyer if their initial disability claim is denied. Some decide at that point to seek representation, while others decide to wait and see whether or not their reconsideration appeal will be denied as well (85-87 percent of reconsiderations are turned down). For those who get a lawyer or a non-attorney, how useful is representation at that point?

Here is a common viewpoint:

Unfortunately, other than completing your reconsideration appeal timely, having the services of a lawyer does not make your reconsideration appeal get processed faster. Typically a lawyer just makes sure that your disability claim can move to the next appeal level, which any claimant can on their very own..

Is this true? Largely, yes. In very many instances, when a case is represented at the "next step" (this is the request for reconsideration level, which is the available appeal) there is often little that will be done by a disability attorney other than conducting status checks, filing the reconsideration appeal, and waiting for a decision after the reconsideration has been initiated.

However, having said this, there are claimants who do not seek representation at this point and then either--

A) Fail to submit their request for reconsideration within the given time period (which is a very generous 65 days from the date of the denial, but, amazingly, many claimants miss this deadline).


B) Do not submit an appeal, but, instead, file a new claim. As we've stated, this is usually a waste of time (note: not just a waste of time, but an incredibly unproductive use of one's very valuable time).


C) Simply give up on the process altogether. Speaking from the standpoint of statistical outcomes for those who persevere and continue with filing appeals, giving up is a very bad choice. The majority of claimants who persevere will eventually be approved for disability benefits and receive a social security disability award letter.

So, should you seek representation after your disability application has been denied? Or do you wait until your first appeal, the reconsideration, has been denied and you are in the position of having to make a request for a disability hearing, where you should undeniably consider getting a representative?. Note: At the hearing level, it is really just ludicrous and short-sighted to attempt to go it alone; going before a federally appointed judge without the benefit of representation will, for many claimants, dramatically diminish the chances of winning disability benefits.

My take on it is this: Most claimants will be fine in waiting to see if they receive a denial on their first appeal before speaking to a disability attorney. Having said this, though, some attorneys do make a concentrated effort to win claims at the first appeal level; therefore skipping representation may amount to potentially giving up some advantage (I say "potentially" because a good percentage of attorneys make zero effort to do anything to win a case at the reconsideration level).

Also, the likelihood is that if a person is denied on their application for disability, they will most likely be denied on the social security reconsideration, so it isn't necessarily a bad idea to become represented at the point where the reconsideration appeal needs to be filed, and many claimants do exactly this.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

Other Posts

My Disability Claim was Denied, Should I Reapply?
Appeals for Social Security Disability - Disability Appeals Process
Who is eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI Disability?
SSI Benefits - How to apply for SSI Disability
What is a Qualifying Disability for Social Security?
Social Security Disability For Mental Illness
Social Security Disability Psychological Exam and Questions that get Asked
Social Security Disability SSI and Residual Functional Capacity
Social Security Disability Residual Functional Capacity Form
What does Social Security Disability consider a Mental Impairment?
Social Security Disability Mental Records
How does Social Security Determine if a Person can no Longer Work (residual functional capacity) ?
How to get approved for SSI disability
Waiting for Social Security disability to be approved can be crushing


Blogger Inge' said...

Do you have a post that explains the difference between an "application for disability" and "social security reconsideration"? Are they the same thing and I missed that or did I miss the post?

I have found your blog most useful and thank you for time you have put into explaining this for us laymen.

8:05 AM  
Blogger tpet1967 said...

I have an unusual case I believe. I filed for benefits in October 2010. I was denied as expected. I retained a Disability Attorney in April 2011. I saw her at her office for about 30 minutes and when I filed the application, I sent in ALL my medical records. All the attorney did at that point was to file my appeal and state that she was representing me. I e-mailed her about 3 times and she e-mailed back. In her last e-mail she said that this is how the process goes and that I may want to contact my Congressman to see if that could help. That was in late June or early July 2011. I wrote to my Congressman and after a 2 correspondence between us, he contacted SSD on my behalf as a Congressional Interest on a Critical Level. On August 30 2011, I received notice from the SSD office that I have a FULLY FAVORABLE decision. My question or comment is, should my attorney receive a 25% fee and all she did was saw me for a consultation, sent in the appeal and e-mailed me to write to my Congressman. Thank you

9:09 AM  
Blogger Disability Blogger said...

tpet1967, technically if you signed a fee agreement and an appointment of representative form, the attorney should be paid their fee. The truth is, when you get representation, there's no way to know how much work they'll have to do on your case or even "if" they'll have to do anything on your case (though in the vast majority of instances, the rep will have to take your case to a hearing and prepare accordingly).
Having said this, there are some attorneys who will waive their fee if it turns out that they ended up doing nothing and you were basically approved without their assistance. And there are others who will demand to be paid regardless.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Disability Blogger said...

Inge, the reconsideration or "request for reconsideration" is the first appeal. It is not the same thing as a disability application, though the process for handling a reconsideration is identical to that of a disability application. Recons, are they are called, are handled by a higher level disability examiner and tend to be processed faster because most of the information has already been gathered for the initial claim. Not suprisingly, more than 80 percent of all reconsideration appeals are denied (why? same agency, same process).

9:03 PM  

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