Social Security Disability Representation
Advantages of an Attorney or Disability Advocate
Claimants who are initially applying for Social Security Disability or filing an appeal because their application was denied, may have questions on if they should hire a Disability Advocate or Attorney to manage their claim. These claimants wondering about representation should know that at any time they are allowed to appoint a qualified individual to represent them on their behalf throughout the disability approval process. Any representation must be put in writing and must be filed through the Social Security Administration for approval.
The harsh reality of Social Security Disability is that the system isn’t friendly or favorable with over 75 percent of applicants being denied on their initial application. Completing the application isn’t what is challenging, the trials and tribulations most claimants face is lack of knowledge in how to properly develop their claim and provide sufficient documentation that would render an approval. The unfortunate part is once a case is denied, most claims take months or even years to be approved, creating financial distress and further medical complications during the waiting time.
Below the Disability Care Center created answers to the most common questions we get asked when talking to an applicant about hiring representation for their disability claim.
Should you hire a Disability Advocate or Attorney to handle your claim?
Statistically individuals who apply for Social Security Disability on their own have less than a 25 percent chance of approval at the initial and reconsideration stage of their claim. Typically a Disability Advocate or Attorney only increases your chances for approval between 10 and 20 percent at this stage of the claim unless the applicant poorly completed their application.
Knowing that 50 percent of claims regardless of initially filing with an Advocate will be sent to an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing, it benefits the claimant to have representation from the beginning of the process. Having a Disability Advocate from the start improves chances of the claim being approved right away and ensures a request for reconsideration or hearing request will be filed in the time limit allotted if denied. Hiring an advocate or non-attorney won’t guarantee an initial approval however, it will ensure the case is professionally developed and prepared, maximizing benefits and chances for approval.
Are there advantages to having representation throughout a disability claim?
There are numerous advantages of having representation during the Social Security Disability process, application or appeal. Though having representation doesn’t automatically qualify individuals an expedited approval, an experienced Disability Advocate may be able to speed up an approval be preventing an initial denial most applicants face. However, applicants who suffer from specific illnesses recognized by the SSA may be able to receive an expedited approval with the proper paperwork completed by an attorney or advocate.
Regrettably it’s a fact that the majority of applicants who attempt to receive disability benefits have no idea how to properly complete an application through the SSA, not including the preparation of their claim for an appeal hearing if denied. An advocate’s expertise and familiarity in how to develop a disability claim knowing what the SSA is looking for automatically increases the chances of approval. Also, hearings are tried in ODAR offices with judges who usually stay in one location and a local advocate or attorney may know exactly what your judge is looking for regarding medical documentation.
Another advantage to having an experienced representative handle your claim is that they may be able to obtain a more favorable “onset date” for the accepted disabilities. A regular citizen who doesn’t know anything about the date of onset would not know it determines when the claimant became disabled which can be argued with the proper experience. This knowledge a Disability Advocate has would directly affect how much back due benefits or retroactive pay is awarded to the claimant.
If hired What exactly will my Disability Advocate or Attorney do?
After hiring a Disability Advocate or Attorney they will first do an initial evaluation of your claim and then do the following to ensure your chances for approval are maximized:
- Complete an application through the Social Security Administration clearly stating how your conditions meet a qualified medical listing and affect your ability to perform work.
- Obtain all historical and current medical documentation that mentions any condition being considered for your disability.
- Talk with your doctors and develop specific physician recommendations the Social Security Administration looks for when reviewing a claim.
- If applicable, inform the SSA that the illnesses under review match listings in the compassionate allowance act allowing for an expedited approval of benefits.
Unfortunately, most advocate or attorneys only accept cases in the initial application or appeal stage is they think there is a good chance of it being approved.
What are the fees from a Disability Advocate or Attorney handling my claim?
Disability advocate organizations or law firms that represent disability claims are unconventional in their fee structure. The Social Security Administration actually governs and sanctions how much a representative can earn in fees on any single disability claim. All fee agreements between the claimant and their representative are reviewed to ensure all guidelines are met.
The fees associated with disability claims are all on a contingent basis, meaning a representative is only paid if the claim is approved for benefits. Due to this fact, representatives go to great lengths to gain approval for every disability claim they handle. This is because if the claim is lost, the representative and their organization usually absorb all costs (postage, copying, phone calls, medical records etc.).
How fees are structured is the SSA limits all representatives to 25% or $6,000 maximum (whichever is less) of the retroactive benefits or past-due amount owed to the claimant while waiting for approval. The representative is only paid out of the back pay and will never affect or be paid out of monthly benefits. Thankfully, most representatives have direct pay which allows the SSA to pay them direct from the back due benefits so the claimants never have to write a check. At times non-attorney representatives that don’t have direct pay have to bill their client directly if awarded benefits.
How does the Social Security Administration calculate back due benefits?
After being approved for disability benefits, the SSA calculates how much in back due benefits or back pay needs to be awarded. For recipients who are on SSI, retroactive pay cannot start any further back that the date of application. For SSDI cases, back pay is determined on the date of onset or when the illnesses began to disabled the claimant from working.
How back due benefits are calculated is the time in months the claimant waited for approval multiplied by the monthly check amount. This value is delivered to the recipient in a lump sum amount in addition to their monthly checks.