What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Social Security Benefits Attorney?
Those who are disabled and unable to work and earn a sufficient income are eligible for Social Security disability benefits if they satisfy certain other criteria, such as being of limited income and resources or having earned enough work credits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because Social Security disability benefits are issued by the government, an applicant may not feel as though they need legal representation during the process.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the Social Security Administration denies millions of claims per year, and many of these claim denials are due to errors made by claimants during the application process. By working with an experienced Social Security disability benefits attorney, a claimant improves their chances of their claim being approved. A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that people who hired an attorney to help with their disability claims were three times more likely to be successful than those who didn’t. Consider the following benefits of hiring a Social Security disability attorney, and please reach out to the law firm of Baker & Baker with any questions that you have.
An Attorney Will Provide Information About the Types of Disability Benefits
If you are disabled and unable to work and provide for yourself as such, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Before you apply, though, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the two types of benefit programs maintained by the SSA: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Your attorney can explain to you the different benefit programs, the eligibility requirements for each, and advise you on which program you’re eligible for and how to proceed.
Your Attorney Will Prepare Your Initial Claim for Benefits
Once you know whether you’re filing for SSDI benefits, SSI benefits, or both, you’ll need to start preparing your claim. When you file a claim for Social Security benefits, you need to provide information about yourself, information about any family members who may qualify for benefits on your record, such as a spouse, and information about your disability.
Types of documents that are necessary to provide to the SSA range from your Social Security number to proof of citizenship to your income and tax documents to statements from your doctors and more. The breadth of data that the Social Security Administration is requesting can feel overwhelming; and overlooking something that’s very important to include is easy to do as such. When you work with an attorney, your attorney will ensure that your application satisfies the SSA’s requirements.
Note that preparing your claim correctly the first time is the goal. If your claim is denied, you do have the right to appeal the denial but avoiding this step altogether is preferable.
An Attorney Will Organize All Evidence for Your Claim
Not only will your attorney help you to prepare and file your claim, but your attorney — with support from their staff — can also organize all evidence and documents related to your claim. If the Social Security Administration requests additional information, your attorney will be ready to provide it in a timely manner. Having someone else take the responsibility for this can reduce the burden and stress put on you, supplanting that stress with peace of mind.
If Your Claim Is Denied, Your Attorney Will Handle the Appeals Process
Once the Social Security Administration has finished reviewing your claim, they will provide you with notice. If your claim is denied, the Social Security Administration must tell you the reason for the claim denial. From there, you have 60 days to file an appeal.
The appeals process can be complex, and having legal representation is incredibly valuable. Your attorney will help you to understand why your claim was denied, ensure that you file your appeal within the required time frame so that you don’t forfeit the right to appeal, and will be responsible for making sure that the SSA receives all of the information it needs on the second go-around.
The first step in the appeals process is called reconsideration, which is simply a request made by a claimant for the SSA to reconsider their decision. While this level of appeal is fairly straightforward, the second level of appeal — a hearing — is a bit more convoluted and involved.
An Attorney Can Represent You During Your Hearing
If your request for a reconsideration results in your claim for disability benefits being denied a second time, then you have 60 days from the date of receiving notice of the reconsideration decision to request a hearing — the second step in the appeals process. Your hearing will be conducted before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and is an opportunity to present your case, call upon witnesses, and submit evidence that supports your claim for receiving disability benefits.
Your attorney can be essential during this process and assist you by:
- Helping you to practice giving testimony and answering questions before the ALJ;
- Preparing you for your hearing, including advising on you on how to interact with the ALJ, what to wear, etc.;
- Determining which witnesses are more essential to your case;
- Helping you to gather and submit evidence that supports your case;
- Representing you before the ALJ during the hearing.
If your hearing is unsuccessful, you still have two more opportunities to appeal.
Your Attorney Will Prepare Your Case for the Appeals Council and Federal Court
If your hearing is unsuccessful and you are not granted benefits by the SSA, the next step is to request a review of the Administrative Law Judge’s decision by the Appeals Council. During this step in the process, you may be able to submit new evidence that supports your claim for benefits.
If the Appeal Council denies your claim for benefits, you have one final option — filing an action with the U.S. District Court in your area. Your attorney will be responsible for preparing legal briefs and your argument and representing you throughout the process.
Call the Office of Baker & Baker Today
When thinking about how a Social Security disability attorney can help you, it is important to remember that Social Security disability attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means there are no hourly fees or out-of-pocket costs to the client. At the office of Baker & Baker, we offer free consultation and would be happy to review your case today. Please call us, send us a message online, or visit our office to learn more.