Do I Need a Social Security Disability Attorney to Apply for Benefits?


As with any legal or government matter, you do not have to have the representation of a Social Security Disability attorney to file a disability claim. You are certainly welcome to represent yourself, fill out the application on your own, and go to the hearing without an attorney.

However, there is a difference between a requirement and a need. Just because you are not required to have the representation of a Social Security Disability attorney does not mean that you do not need it. In fact, many reports show that Social Security Disability claimants are more successful with an experienced attorney on their side.

Although you do not have to hire an SSD lawyer, you will likely benefit from doing so when you apply for SSD benefits.

This post includes:

See our Social Security Disability Resource Guide for even more information.

How Can a Social Security Disability Attorney Help Your Claim?

If you are in the position to file for SSD benefits, you likely need the help of an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. You are probably already dealing with enough issues based on your health and medical status that representing your own SSD claim could be overwhelming.

Your attorney can handle all aspects of your claim from completing the application and gathering the necessary documents to getting your benefit payments through your bank account. Your attorney will answer your questions, address your concerns, guide and advise you through every step of this often confusing and challenging process.

An SSD lawyer can also help by:

  • Helping you understand the Blue Book listing to determine if you might meet the criteria
  • Ensuring that you meet required deadlines and file timely appeals so your claim isn’t rejected on those grounds
  • Knowing what medical evidence to obtain and submit on your behalf
  • Communicating with your medical providers to get the necessary documentation and statements required to win your claim
  • Preparing you for your SSD hearing
  • Knowing the administrative law judge (ALJ) and their preferences
  • Knowing how to handle and address evidence that may be detrimental to winning your claim, for instance, if you have not always been compliant with your treatment plan
  • Cross-examining the medical and vocational expert
  • Knowing and using the arguments that will most likely win your case
  • Guiding your testimony in a way that presents relevant testimony to the ALJ

The Most Common Reasons SSD Claims are Denied

A seasoned Social Security Disability attorney is familiar with the reasons that SSD claims are denied and works to avoid them in your case. They can avoid delays in your claim by providing the necessary and correct evidence required with your initial application. They can tell you what steps you can take to strengthen your claim.

Common reasons for SSD claims to be denied include:

Lack of concrete medical evidence

Your application must prove that you are not only eligible to receive SSD based on your wage credits but that you are unable to work due to your disabling condition. The only way to prove the latter is to provide sufficient and accurate medical evidence showing your medical condition and that your condition has left you unable to perform your job or other similar jobs. Your records must reveal that your disability substantially interferes with your ability to work.

Some applicants mistakenly believe that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will develop evidence in their cases to determine if they qualify.  Actually, it is your duty as an applicant to provide SSA with the information and evidence needed to make a decision.

Prior denials

Another common mistake some applicants make is filing a new SSD claim instead of appealing a current one. Some applications may be time-barred due to previous claims that were denied.  A Social Security Disability attorney can help appeal your claim instead of filing a new application.

Compliance with medical treatment

Your doctor will diagnose your condition and offer a treatment plan. SSA will consider whether you have been compliant with your treatment plan.  In certain cases, there are acceptable reasons you are unable to follow a prescribed treatment plan (ie. inability to pay, high-risk procedure).  It is important to show SSA you are working with your medical team and willing to take the necessary steps to treat your medical condition. Applicants who demonstrate compliance with their treatment plan will be able to put forth a stronger disability claim.

Failure to cooperate with the SSA

You need to cooperate with the people at the SSA assigned to your claim.  If SSA requests specific or additional documentation, get it for them. If SSA schedules a consultative examination, you must attend and put forth your best effort.  Remain in contact with the person handling your claim and cooperate with their requests. An SSA attorney will help you keep in contact and follow SSA’s instructions.

Can You Afford a Social Security Disability Attorney?

One major obstacle that keeps SSD claimants from hiring their own SSD lawyer is fear about what legal services will cost them. After all, they are applying for SSD because they need money. They do not feel they should be spending money to get money. However, there are several aspects of SSD attorney fees to understand.

While many SSD attorneys ask for money upfront to cover out of pocket expenses, their attorney fee is based on contingency fees. This means they only get paid if you win your claim. If you do not win your claim, you only owe the costs advanced in preparing your case. Keeping this information in mind, do not let money stop you from scheduling a consultation with a well-versed SSD lawyer and getting the help you need to be successful.

You may be asked for a nominal fee to cover out-of-pocket costs for your attorney, such as photocopies of medical and work documents. Usually, this is under $400.

When you hire an attorney, you will sign a Fee Agreement authorizing the SSA to pay your attorney directly should you win your case. The good news is that SSD lawyers are not allowed to arbitrability charge for their services. Under the law, your SSD lawyer may not charge more than 25 percent of the back pay you are owed for your SSD benefits, and it is capped at $6,000. For most applicants, this is well worth it to receive the benefits they need while they cannot work.

The Importance of Meeting with an SSD Attorney Sooner Than Later

If you or your doctor believes you might qualify for SSD benefits, the best time to meet with an attorney is sooner rather than later. It can take some time to collect the information and documentation to apply for benefits, and once your application is submitted, it could be months before it is processed. If your claim is denied and you need a hearing or to file an appeal, it will be even longer before you receive the money you could be owed.

If your claim is approved, you may be entitled to back pay; however, the longer you wait to discuss your case with a qualified attorney, the longer it will be until you receive financial support. Even if you have already started the application process on your own, you can meet with an SSD lawyer at any time to determine if they might be able to strengthen your chances of success.

Hire a Skilled Social Security Disability Attorney to Represent Your Claim Today

There are, unfortunately, many obstacles to getting a Social Security Disability claim approved. From providing thorough documentation to following your doctor’s advice, you may be overwhelmed with all that you must do. You might be afraid of how much an attorney might cost. Do not let your feelings of being overwhelmed or fear keep you from reaching out for the legal assistance that could win your claim. You need the help of a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer now more than ever.

Statistics have shown that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is more likely to approve someone who is represented by a Social Security Disability attorney. By scheduling a consultation with a skilled attorney, you can learn more about how they can help your claim be successful, what the chances are that you will qualify for SSD benefits, and how long your claim might take. Schedule your no-obligation consultation today by calling Joyce & Bary Law or use our convenient online contact form.

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