The Pros and Cons for Hiring a Disability Lawyer
The Social Security Administration does not require you to be represented unless your appeal reaches the fourth states (federal court). At that time, you will be required to have an attorney represent you. But the bigger question is should you have a lawyer?
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Disability LawyerAn experienced disability lawyer may handle hundreds of claims each year. He or she will know what must be done to improve your chances of having your applicaiton approved the first time through. If your initial claim is denied, the timeline before you potentially receive benefits is extended significantly--in some cases it is 12-18 months before a hearing is scheduled for your appeal. You want your initial application to have the best chance of approval. The process of applying for disability can be confusing. The lawyer will understand the process and will be able to guide you through it. The disablity application and the appeals process are time consuming. An attorney can cut the amount of time you have to spend on your claim by telling you which tasks are necessary and when.
Information on What a Disability Lawyer doesThe government loves forms. An attorney will know which forms must be completed and when. The lawyer will know what to expect at the disability hearing and can help prepare you for it. Your lawyer will have access to medical or vocational expert resourses if they are needed. A lawyer may be aware of other resources available to you that could help your case, based on your disability. If you receive income from other sources like Worker's Compensation, a lawyer can explain if and when there might be offsets to the disability amount paid to you. Your lawyer may find cause to expedite your hearing. While you will pay a fee to hire an attorney, that fee is set by the SSA so you don't have to worry about "being taken to the cleaners." If you case is appealed to the federal level, you must be represented by an attorney.
Reasons Not to Hire a LawyerMoney is the primary reason most people choose to represent themselves. They simply do not want to pay the lawyer's fee. Note that attorney fees are set by the SSA and cannot be charged until the agency says so. Most disability lawyer's fees are handled on a contingency basis. This means you only pay if you win your case. If you win an award most lawyers have a contingency rate 25% of back pay benefits due. This percentage is far lower than what is charged in most other contingency fee cases and does not apply to future benefits which can be substantial. Lawyer's fees are also capped on how much can be awarded. A good portion of the informatoin required for the initial application must be provided by the disabled party. This includes information on employment history and medical providers, including contact information, history of treatment, etc. Some people assume since they have to do all this work, they might as well file the initial Disabilty claim themselves. Sadly, over the years the profession has gotten some bad press. In reality most men and women who get into the practice because they wanted to help people. If you are uncomfortable with any lawyer you meet, do not hire him or her to represent you.