“Do I need a lawyer to handle my disability claim?” is one of the first questions asked by anyone applying for Social Security Disability benefits. The answer, technically, is no–there is no mandate or requirement to retain attorney representation to file a disability claim. However, whether you are required to hire a lawyer and whether you should hire a lawyer are entirely different matters.
If you are in the beginning stages of applying for SSD benefits, you are about to undergo a complicated process that is statistically likely to end in a denial of your benefits. In fact, in Oklahoma, more than 70 percent of disability claims are rejected at the initial application. Although you can request reconsideration of your claim, you must do so according to strict deadlines and requirements, and your chances of approval do not increase much. Fewer than 10 percent of Oklahomans who file a request for reconsideration have their claims approved at this step. Most must then go on to plead their case at a disability hearing.
The disability hearing is a legal proceeding before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). For most claimants, this is the opportunity to demonstrate that a disability meets the requirements for obtaining Social Security Disability benefits. Although you may appear without legal representation, it is generally not advisable. In fact, the Social Security Administration’s own statistics demonstrate that your likelihood of benefits approval is greater if you have attorney representation, and an ALJ is required by law to notify unrepresented claimants of their right to have a disability lawyer.
You are statistically more likely to receive an approval of benefits if you are represented by an experienced Social Security lawyer. In fact, some statistics show that applicants with attorney representation are twice as likely to get benefits as their counterparts without a lawyer.
There are several reasons why having a lawyer on your side maximizes your chance of success. In addition, an attorney’s experience and knowledge with a complicated system can facilitate the process and make applying easier for you.
Benefits of Hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer
An experienced, qualified attorney can:
- assist you in filling out forms completely, accurately, and efficiently
- file appeals quickly and within allowable deadlines
- refer you to physicians and gather evidence and documentation to support your claim
- subpoena witnesses
- prepare you for questioning at the disability hearing
- fully question vocational experts
- argue your case before the Administrative Law Judge
- ensure your benefits are calculated correctly
- keep you informed about your case and any appeals or proceedings necessary
If you think you need a lawyer to handle your Social Security Disability claim but are afraid that you cannot afford an attorney, it is important to know that attorney fees in SSD cases are set by law, and they are kept to a limited percentage of your benefits award. This means that if your attorney does not win your case, he or she does not collect fees.
If you are disabled and unable to work, you need Social Security Disability payments to help you afford daily living expenses. While it is permissible to file a claim without representation, it is not advisable to do so. You can hire an attorney at any point in the disability process, but the earlier you get legal representation, the sooner you may be granted benefits.