If you are facing a serious injury or illness that is keeping you from performing the duties of your employment, this may be one of the most stressful times of your life. You are not only dealing with pain and medical appointments, treatments, and tests, but you may also be worried about how you will pay your bills. Through the Social Security Administration (SSA), you could qualify for assistance in the form of monthly Social Security Disability payments.
However, qualifying for this type of assistance is an uphill battle for many people. Having an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer on your side can help increase the chances of having your social security application approved.
Hiring an attorney to represent your Social Security Disability (SSD) case is an important decision. Most SSD claims take more than a year to resolve, and some claims drag on for almost a decade. During that time, you’ll need to place a lot of trust in your SSD attorney. Here are 10 questions you should discuss with your Social Security Disability lawyer at your first appointment.
1. How Do You Charge for Your Services?
Before hiring an attorney, you should be informed about how much legal representation for your SSD claim will cost you. While fees and costs for the services of a seasoned Social Security Disability lawyer can vary, SSA caps the amount attorneys can charge. The standard contingency fee for SSD cases is 25 percent of the past-due SSD benefits. However, SSA caps the attorney fee at $6,000.
Many SSD attorneys will seek payment directly from the SSA, which means you do not have the hassle of paying them, nor do you need to worry about paying them upfront. If your claim is successful, the SSA will deduct the attorney’s fees from your benefits and send payment directly to your Social Security Disability lawyer.
Keep in mind that if you do not win your claim and need to appeal to Federal Court, your attorney’s fee structure might change. Be sure to ask what the fees are under this circumstance. You should also ask about other costs related to your claim. For example, what is the price of obtaining medical records or consultative examinations?
2. How Often Do You Meet with Clients?
Before asking the Social Security Disability lawyer this question, think about what you need. Do you want your Social Security Disability lawyer to meet with you or provide you updates on your case frequently? What level of involvement would make you the most comfortable?
Some SSD clients prefer only to be contacted if there are significant updates in their claim or if the attorney needs something. Others like frequent contact and to be briefed on any changes, no matter how small. Find out what the standard is for the attorney you meet with and verify that he or she can meet your expectations when it comes to communication.
3. How Much Experience Do You Have with SSD Claims?
Some law firms dabble in many different types of law. At Joyce & Bary Law, we focus our efforts on a select few areas. SSD claims are highly technical and require:
- A comprehensive investigation of your medical records
- Familiarity with Social Security laws and regulations
- Experience giving testimony to an administrative law judge (ALJ)
- The capability to cross-examine medical and vocational witnesses
Although they can serve many different types of clients, firms that practice in many areas may not be able to provide you with the services to get you the results you deserve. They simply do not have the focus and experience that other attorneys who narrow their practice have. Using an attorney who does not understand how certain factors such as age, medical condition, and work experience can impact your claim can be detrimental to your case.
By focusing on only a few specific areas of law, we can provide you with the legal services you need to win your claim.
4. Are You Familiar with My Medical Conditions?
Some medical conditions are more prevalent than others when it comes to SSD cases. You would expect that your Social Security Disability lawyer and judges understand common conditions like degenerative disc disease or severe depression, as well as the limitations that these conditions place upon clients. If your injury or medical condition is not quite as common as others, you will want to ensure that the SSD attorney you hire understands and is familiar with your condition. If not, you may lose your claim by not representing it wholly and accurately. Your case needs to show how your medical or health condition is affecting your ability to work for a living.
5. How Do You Handle SSD Claims?
Every SSD attorney handles claims differently and uses different methods available to them. Understanding how a potential attorney will handle your claim can help you determine if the relationship is a good fit. The tools available to your attorney include:
- Medical Source Statements: A MSS completed by a treating medical source will provide functional limitations resulting from your severe impairments
- Expedited hearings: If you have a terminal illness or are a wounded warrior, you might be entitled to an earlier hearing date
- Consultative examinations: A medical expert examines you, giving direction about your diagnoses, prognosis, and restrictions
- Vocational evaluation: An expert in occupations and workplace skills, compiles a report regarding the impact your disabilities may have on your ability to work.
An experienced Social Security Disability lawyer will use the appropriate tools for your case. Your attorney should carefully assess your claim and tailor personalized strategies to increase your overall likelihood of success.
6. Do You Handle Appeals Council Cases?
With as many as 40 percent to 70 percent of claims being denied, you need a Social Security Disability lawyer that is willing to do everything you can to win your case. If you are denied your SSD claim, your attorney should always be willing to review the ALJ’s decision to determine if you have grounds to appeal. Sometimes judges do make mistakes, and unless an attorney is willing to take the case to the next level, it will hurt the claimant. Some attorneys handle claims with the Appeals Council (AC), and some do not. If you prefer continuity in your case, you will want to make sure that the attorney you choose does.
7. What Can I do To Help My Claim?
No matter what Social Security Disability lawyer you hire, they will need your participation and cooperation to win your claim. The more you can do to help your claim, the better. Ask at your initial meeting what you can do to help increase the chances that you will win. The attorney might suggest gathering certain documents, getting regular medical treatment, and following the medical advice of your physician. Be willing to follow the suggestions of your attorney.
8. How Will We Plan to Prepare for a Hearing?
Preparation and planning are part of the keys to success in a disability claim. An SSD hearing is usually stressful for claimants. Planning sessions with your attorney can go a long way in helping you feel prepared and more comfortable. An experienced and reliable attorney will have a plan in place and be happy to share it with you. Meeting with a client just a couple of hours prior to the hearing is not generally an acceptable plan in most SSD claims.
9. What is the Best Way to Contact You?
You need to know the best way to get in touch with your attorney. Some will prefer you go through a paralegal or another legal staff member, and others will allow you to contact them directly via email, phone, or text. Make sure you feel comfortable with whichever way they prefer to be contacted. You might also want to ask them how quickly they can usually get back to you. Knowing you can reach out to your attorney and that they will address your concerns promptly can help you alleviate some stress surrounding your SSD claim.
10. Do I Qualify for Other Benefits?
In addition to SSD, you may be eligible for other benefits such as VA service-connected disability or long-term disability. It’s helpful to know what other benefits you may qualify for to get the full support that you deserve and just in case your SSD is denied. Your Social Security Disability attorney can explain these benefits in detail and might even be able to help you apply for other types of benefits.
Let an Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer Handle Your Claim
You might be tempted to apply for Social Security Disability benefits on your own. While this may seem like a good idea, it can be very risky for many applicants. If your claim is not filed with all the necessary documents and information or is not filed according to other deadlines or regulations, you will not win. An SSD lawyer is familiar with the rules and regulations and can ensure that your application is complete and accurate.
Schedule your Social Security Disability consultation today. Call Joyce & Bary Law at (540) 613-5090 & (866) 257-0909. You can also use our convenient online contact form.