What do you do when you have a legitimate disability but your employer doesn’t consider it severe enough to warrant social security disability benefits?
The process of proving that you deserve these benefits can be difficult, but it’s made much easier if you work with the right lawyer from the beginning of your case.
Here are some tips on how to choose the right lawyer for your social security disability case.
How Do I Pick a Lawyer?
Choosing a lawyer is more art than science. There are no hard and fast rules about who you should select as your legal representation, which makes choosing an attorney in one of life’s most stressful situations even more intimidating.
When trying to choose a lawyer, it helps if you can picture yourself with that person or firm in front of you—after all, it’s going to be tough enough asking someone else to deal with all your personal business without feeling like they might also be out of their depth.
Look at their experience: Has he or she handled cases like yours before? Does he have years of practice in your city?
While these considerations aren’t definitive, choosing an attorney who has been around and seen many things is better than someone new and inexperienced.
5 Qualities to Look for in a Social Security Disability Attorney
- When choosing a lawyer, it’s essential that you select one who has extensive experience dealing with social security disability cases.
You want someone who has an in-depth understanding of how your application will be reviewed, because different lawyers approach these cases differently. To help ensure you find an attorney with deep knowledge of your area of need, follow these five tips:
- Ask your lawyer if they have significant experience handling social security disability claims.
- Don’t settle on meeting with just one lawyer; ask many attorneys about their background and past successes before selecting one.
- Before hiring a lawyer, make sure they are licensed to practice law in your state.
- If possible, hire an attorney who is accredited by The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR).
- Check out your potential candidate’s reviews online or ask friends and family members for referrals.
When Should I Hire an Attorney?
For certain social security disability cases, you’ll need an attorney. For others, you may be able to handle your claim by yourself.
Understanding how your situation fits into each category can help you decide whether it’s worth it to hire an attorney.
Keep in mind that many attorneys will offer free initial consultations, so there’s no harm in getting more information before making your decision.
Tips for Finding the Right Attorney
Before you choose a lawyer, remember that not all legal representation is equal. The American Bar Association rates attorneys based on whether they are preeminent, distinguished, or simply satisfactory.
Additionally, most lawyers will provide free consultations—use it as an opportunity to get answers and feel out how personable and knowledgeable your attorney seems.
What If My Initial Attorney Can’t Help Me?
It’s possible that your initial attorney might not be able to help you with your disability case. If that happens, it’s okay—they might have another referral for you. One of your friends or family members might be able to recommend an attorney; many personal injury attorneys also handle disability cases.
Attorneys who specialize in disability law know how to navigate all of these different types of systems and can help ensure you get what is fair.
If you need help finding a good lawyer, check out some online reviews (like Avvo) or ask around at local bars and restaurants where lawyers often hang out; they may be able to refer someone good in their network.
How Much Does an SSDI Attorney Cost?
You may also be wondering how much an SSDI attorney costs. The good news is that most lawyers work on contingency, which means they’ll be paid when you are awarded benefits.
This can help you keep your expenses down while you pursue what is likely to be a stressful and lengthy process. For more on lawyer fees, check out our in-depth guide:
How Much Does an Attorney Cost? Also consider whether you need legal representation in your social security disability case.
While most claimants do hire attorneys, there are situations where hiring one isn’t necessary (and potentially costly).
If your claim is strong and straightforward, for example, an attorney might not add any value by handling your case directly.
What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?
SSDI is an insurance program that is provided by federal law. It’s designed to protect against financial hardship in cases where you cannot work due to disabling medical conditions.
To qualify, you must have paid into Social Security and be unable or unlikely to do substantial gainful activity (SGA) as defined by your age, education and past work experience.
The rules are complicated, so if you are seeking social security disability payments it’s best to hire a lawyer who specializes in your type of case.
Am I Eligible for SSDI Benefits?
Eligibility is determined by numerous factors, so it’s difficult to say without knowing your individual case. However, you can get a good idea of whether or not you’re eligible by answering three basic questions:
Did I have a qualifying disability? Do I have enough work credits? And was my last job long enough? For example, if you can answer yes to all three of these questions then you are likely eligible for SSDI benefits.
Be aware that there are plenty of other factors that can make SSDI eligibility more complicated than simply answering yes or no to these three questions; however, these answers will serve as an adequate starting point.
Once you know how eligible you are, contact an attorney and get yourself down on paper.
Where Do I Start the SSDI Application Process?
To begin your application process, you’ll need some documents. Here are some tips on how to gather these
The Denial Letter
A social security disability denial letter is often more common than you might think, with over 70% of applications being rejected in some states.
In fact, most applicants will end up receiving a denial letter at some point in their application process.
So, what can you do when faced with a denial letter? Well, first you should be sure that your claim was actually denied (see our guide on appeal letters if you’re unsure).
After that, it’s time to find an attorney.
The Appeal Hearing
For most social security disability applicants, their initial application is denied.
According to figures released by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, nearly two-thirds of first-time applications are turned down, which is why it’s so important to seek representation if you’re disabled.
Working With Your Lawyer During the Appeal Process
One of your top priorities in choosing a lawyer is finding someone who will be a strong advocate on your behalf.
A good way to start assessing how committed your lawyer will be is by asking them what their success rate is with SSDI appeals.
The success rate measures how many people their law firm represents in SSDI appeals and whether or not they win those cases.
If you are able to obtain your records, which contain all of your past medical information, it’s also helpful to look over that documentation before speaking with any lawyers so you can gauge exactly what you’re dealing with before deciding who might best represent you.