You do not need an attorney or representative to win your case BUT having an attorney does increase your odds of being awarded. An attorney has the proper knowledge and expertise to assist you with your case. An attorney also has a vast number of resources to deal with the specific issues and medical conditions that you are claiming in your case as well as access to federal social security laws, prior social security rulings and medical research tools that will increase your odds of winning at a hearing.
An attorney can help you at any level of your case. This includes filing the initial application, filing a request for reconsideration, filing a request for hearing and then ultimately representing you at a hearing if necessary.
The application process can be a complicated, time consuming and confusing process. An attorney has the knowledge and expertise of knowing what official documents need to be filed with the Social Security office at each step of the process, what medical or other evidence is required and what deadlines need to be met. Missing a deadline in this process may cause you to lose your case and have you miss out on your benefits.
It is important to know that a high number of cases around the country will more than likely need a hearing and will need to be heard in front of an administrative law judge. If this is the case, an attorney will assist you in gathering your medical documents from all of your providers and make sure that they are properly input into the Social Security system so that the judge has all the evidence necessary to rule on your case.
While at a hearing, an attorney also has the experience of knowing exactly what legal and medical research is needed to properly defend your case as well as knowing exactly what questions need to be to asked, what key documents or diagnostic tests need to be discussed, and what evidence certain judges look for during the court proceeding. You will have a vocational expert and you also may have a medical expert hired by Social Security present at your hearing. These experts will be discussing the facts of your case and giving opinions. An attorney will also cross-examine those experts and make sure that the hired experts properly state the facts of your case.
Some individuals can handle all these aspects of a Social Security Disability claim hearing, but for most folks the assistance of an attorney will be helpful. Another factor to consider, if you act as your own representative the ALJ may consider such efforts to be work-like activity, leading the ALJ to wonder why you can handle a Social Security case but cannot work - be prepared with a clear and sufficient answer when the ALJ questions you on this point.