When to Know it is Time to Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer
Social Security lawyers can play a key role in helping you access the Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits you need.
Many applicants initially seek to file their claims, themselves, in person, by phone, through the mail or online.
Often, this is because they feel their claims are too strong to be denied, or because they are concerned about incurring expenses.
When claims are delayed or denied, however, the process can become significantly more complicated.
Even applicants who had no trouble completing, and submitting, their initial applications may find themselves in need of assistance. And, that is where SSI lawyers come in to the picture.
Understanding the SSI Process
“Where do I find Social Security lawyers near me?” is not necessarily the first question SSD applicants ask when they decide to seek benefits.
Typically, this is because the SSD process can look fairly straightforward, at first glance. The process includes:
- Claimants complete applications explaining their impairments, any treatments they are receiving for those impairments and other related topics.
- Local Social Security Administration field offices accept completed applications directly by mail, over the phone, in person or online.
- After Field Offices verify applications’ non-medical information (such as the claimants’ identities, ages, employment and marital statuses), they forward applications to state-level Disability Determination Services (DDSs) Offices.
- DDSs Offices review the medical aspects of each application, in order to determine if claimants meet legal requirements for disability, making them eligible for benefits.
- DDS may call for claimants to undergo a consultative examination (CE) if the information available from applicants’ medical providers is insufficient to support a decision.
- DDS then returns the application to the appropriate field office with its initial decision.
- If claimants believe they have been inappropriately denied benefits, they can appeal the DDS’s decision. Appeals may be handled by the DDS, or by a judge from the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.
While it can be beneficial to work with an SSI lawyer from the beginning, many applicants will not realize they need legal assistance until the third step of the process, or later.
When to Consider an Appeal
Typically, claimants first realize they may need the assistance of Social Security lawyers when their applications are denied.
This can happen as early as the third step of the process, if the Field Office cannot verify – or disputes – the accuracy or validity of information about applicants’ employment, marital status or other general eligibility factors.
Some claimants first seek SSI lawyers when they are called to participate in consultative examinations during the DDS’s review of their applications.
Still, other applicants only come to the conclusion that they need help when their local Field Offices contact them with news that they have been denied benefits.
It is better to engage the services of a Social Security lawyer near you sooner, rather than later, although you can seek assistance at any point in the application or appeals process.
How Social Security Lawyers Can Help
If you are wondering, “Why should I find a disability attorney near me sooner, rather than later?”
the answer is that attorneys can provide you with invaluable assistance at every step of the way when you are seeking benefits. Experienced SSI lawyers can:
- Help you navigate the application and appeals processes more quickly, reducing the amount of time you spend waiting for a decision and access to benefits.
- Assist you in completing your initial application, and acquiring the right supporting documents for it to demonstrate the validity of your claim to the SSA. This not only reduces delays, but can prevent time-consuming or stressful CE requests.
- Support you in making decisions about how to proceed in a timely manner, if your application is denied.
- Speak on your behalf at hearings or in Court, during the appeals process.
It is helpful to secure legal services early, because if you wish to apply for an appeal, you have a limited amount of time in which to do so.
If your application is denied, and you wish to appeal, you have 60 days from the date of the denial decision to submit your request for a case review.
If you do not start looking for a Social Security lawyer until after your application has been denied, you may run short on time in which to get legal help with your appeal request.
How to find an SSI Lawyer Near You
Once you decide to seek legal assistance, you may find yourself wondering, “How do I find a disability attorney near me?” The answer to that question, however, actually comes in two parts.
The first step is locating attorneys in your area who specialize in SSI cases. You can go about this by:
- Doing a basic internet search.
- Reviewing the list of attorneys in your local phone book.
- Requesting a list from your state Bar Association.
- Contacting your local Disability services or advocacy agency or a local Legal Aid clinic, and asking for their recommendations.
- Referencing the free listings provided by national Disability advocacy groups on their websites.
The second step is determining which of the Social Security lawyers near you are appropriate for your needs.
While this just as important as the first step, it is one that claimants often overlook.
First and foremost, look for an attorney with whom you will be comfortable, and that you trust to speak on your behalf.
Then, look for a Social Security attorney familiar not only with the SSI process, but with issues related to your specific situation and disability.
The Disability Benefits Center recommends asking prospective attorneys certain questions to help find the ones that are right for you. These include:
- Do you have experience specifically with SSI cases?
- Do you have experience working with clients with the same disabilities, employment and life challenges that I have?
- What kind of results have you gotten for these former clients?
- Will you or your staff be readily accessible? Will I be able to contact you whenever I need help, or expect a prompt reply if you are not immediately reachable?