You asked a number of good questions - but the answers are not a simple "do this" or "do that." Each case depnds on many, many facts that are not here. and your concern that the application get done right - that you not "muck" it up - is valid. becasue, one an application is messed up, or things are put in writing, it becomes hard to undo.
When to hire an attorney depends on many factors. I often talk to a client for up to 1/2 hour before we make a decision whether an attorney is needed right away, and sometimes the answer is no,s ometimes yes. So, I suggest you call a attorney in your area - almost all do a free consultation - and discuss the specific facts and issues.
There are a number of good attorneys in your area, some of whom you can find here on Avvo. You may also contact your local city, county or state bar association to see if they have a lawyer referral program, or you may contact the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) for the name and email address or telephone number of attorneys in your area. The telephone number for the lawyer referral service of NOSSCR is 1-800-431-2804. NOSSCR's website is www.nosscr.org.
In addition, you can find a Board certified specialist in Social Security by contacting the National Board of Trial Advocacy. They evaluate lawyers (independently) in many types of claims and require extensive experience and testing before a lawyer is certified. They have a section specifically for Social Security: The National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy, Divisions of the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification.
Their link is: http://www.nblsc.us/
You may also contact NADR (National Association of Disability Representatives) www.nadr.org – automated Telephone Referral System at 1-800-747-6131.
Most attorneys who do any amount of Social Security work are members of NOSSCR and provide a free initial consultation. In any event, no attorney may charge a fee for work on a social security claim until it has been approved by Social Security. The fee limit is a maximum of 25% of past due or back due benefits you are owed, and many lawyers charge less than the full 25%, and the money is not paid until your claim has been approved.
I hope this information helps. Good luck to you!
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Clifford knows his stuff. Read his post one more time, then make an appointment to see a qualified Social Security lawyer near you.
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