I am sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with your previous lawyer. While it is true that you can represent yourself, do you know the social security regulations and are you really capable of trial practice such as cross-examine vocational expert which may appear at your hearing. No matter how good your attorney, there may be facts in your case which will make it very difficult to win. A consultation with an attorney should be free so I would suggest you talk to one and see what they say.
Actual legal advice can only be provided by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction, with experience in the area of law regarding your question. The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.
I agree with Mr. Alston and add that when representing someone in a Social Security or SSI case, the majority of the work I do is not at the hearing sitting there with my client. It could have been that your lawyer submitted proper records, residual function capacity forms, and argument to the judge before the hearing about which you are unaware.
Disclaimer: the above does not constitute legal advice and is only an opinion of the author as to current law. You should consult an attorney with questions about your particular situation.
It's difficult to answer your question regarding SSI and your previous hearing and experience with a lawyer. Social Security disability law is a technical area and it is possible that your attorney was inexperienced and did not know how to prepare for your case or how to handle a hearing effectively. On the other hand, I agree with other responders to this question regarding the possibility that you weren't aware of the work performed by your lawyer because much of it was involved with hearing preparation, gathering of medical records, etc. You mention a previous criminal issue - the general rule is that an incarcerated person cannot receive SS disability benefits, but a felony conviction from a number of years ago should not have been a bar to receiving benefits without further issues concerning your eligibility or medical history. Feel free to give me a call or e-mail me if you have any specific questions as I am an Iowa attorney who handles Social Security disability and SSI cases.
You can reach our offices directly at (515) 480-1542 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The comments listed here are of a general nature and should not be understood to create a formal attorney-client relationship -- that is, I am not, and I cannot give you legal advice here. I am licensed in Iowa and to become your attorney, I need to understand the particular facts and circumstances of your legal question.