Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program with complex requirements to prove that you truly deserve disability benefits and are not trying to defraud the government. Fulfilling those requirements means collecting a great deal of evidence, assembling it into an application, and submitting the application to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Nearly 70% of all initial applications to the SSA are rejected initially. This means that to get disability benefits you should be prepared to file an appeal, a process which may include assembling additional information and having a hearing before a judge.
An experienced SSDI lawyer has helped other people get disability benefits. They have a better idea about how the application process works, what evidence is required, how to get it and how to present it for maximum effectiveness. They are best qualified to help you give your application the best chance of success at all stages of the application process.
What a Lawyer Can Do for You
Once you select a lawyer to represent you, that lawyer can help you in many ways. A lawyer can help you check the information in your Social Security file to make sure your records are up to date. If not all your work history is included, you may not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, or you may have to settle for a reduced rate.
A lawyer can also help you get medical records or information to support your disability claim. An SSDI lawyer is familiar with the medical tests required to support disability claims for a number of conditions, and help you get these tests.
A lawyer can go with you to any interview, conference, or hearing. A lawyer can coach you before your meetings with the SSA so you know how to respond to questions in a truthful manner that includes the information the SSA needs to decide in your favor.
A lawyer can also go to meetings with the SSA without you, if you don’t like going to meetings or your disability makes it hard to get around. Your lawyer can also advise you when it’s in your best interest to attend.
Your lawyer can also request a reconsideration, hearing, or Appeals Council review.
All lawyer’s fees associated with helping you file for SSDI must be approved by the SSA. The SSA will ensure that the fee agreement is fair and will not cost too much. In addition, the SSA makes sure that the lawyer receives no fees until after your case is decided, although you may be asked to put money aside in a special account, called escrow, before the decision is made.
Finding the Right Lawyer
When selecting an SSDI lawyer, you want to find one that will represent you well.
Start by asking for recommendations. If you have any friends or family who have previously received disability, ask them if they worked with a lawyer and whether they’d recommend their lawyer. If you work with a physical therapist, dialysis technician or nurse, or other treatment professional on a regular basis, ask them if they have any recommendations. They have other patients with your condition, and the chances are some of them are on disability, and if they like (or dislike) their lawyer, they may have mentioned them. Also, your family lawyer (if you have one) may know a good SSDI lawyer.
Whether you get recommendations or not, check lawyers out online. Start by checking out the recommendations you received, then search for a few others online. Look at testimonials on the lawyers’ sites, check out what they have to say about SSDI, and find out about their credentials and experience. Make inquiries to find out if the lawyer represents people at your stage in the SSDI application process.
Meet with at least three lawyers before making your decision. You need to talk to this many to get a good sense of whether a lawyer is right for you. Pick a lawyer you feel will take you and your case seriously. Pick someone you feel you can work with for a while. If your case isn’t approved during the initial application, you may be working with them for a year or more.