DO I NEED A LAWYER FOR MY SSDI AND/OR SSI CLAIM?
Based on the statistics, a large majority of Social Security Disability (SSDI) and SSI claims are denied at the Initial Claim and Reconsideration levels, and this generally occurs whether a claimant has legal representation or not.
For this reason, most SSDI and SSI claims will have to be heard by an Administrative Law Judge before a claimant has any hope of receiving disability benefits (this is the one step of the process where it is extremely beneficial to have legal representation).
It is at the level of an Administrative Law Judge hearing that a person should always have representation either from a disability attorney or non Social Security attorney claimant’s representative, also known as a disability advocate.
While it is not possible for a disability attorney or disability advocate to guarantee that a claimant will be awarded Social Security disability or SSI benefits, having a Social Security lawyer will guarantee that your case will be properly developed prior to the hearing date, giving you a much greater chance for being awarded benefits.
Nearly all of the SSDI and SSI claimants will be completely unfamiliar with the necessary process required to properly prepare a disability case for a hearing, whereas a disability attorney representative or disability advocate will be able to apply their expertise and knowledge of the rules and regulations of the Social Security disability or SSI process toward the goal of obtaining a favorable outcome on a case. It is common for a disability attorney or disability advocate to have many years of SSDI and SSI claim experience to lend to a claimant’s disability case.
It is possible for a claimant to win their SSDI or SSI disability claim at the ALJ hearing level without representation. However, the likelihood of winning a Social Security disability or SSI claim before an Administrative Law Judge are substantially decreased when a claimant does not have legal representation. Therefore, a claimant should weigh the risk of going to a hearing without legal representation when their future income is hanging in the balance– -especially when considering how long it takes to even get to a disability hearing in the first place.
Even unrepresented claimants, who are successful in winning their claims, may not obtain the most favorable onset date for the starting point of their benefits. The date of disability onset and the date of entitlement are the two factors that dictate the amount a claimant will receive in back pay. For this reason, being able to provide evidence for the earliest possible disability onset is extremely important for a Social Security disability or SSI claimant.
Disability attorneys and attorney disability advocates do many things to make certain that a SSDI or SSI claim will have the absolute best chance of winning. This includes acquiring detailed statements from a claimant’s treating physician, collecting medical records, and, at the time of the hearing, implementing a comprehensive understanding of Social Security Administration requirements and rules to the disability adjuration process.
Although an attorney or disability advocate is never required in a disability claim (federal court is the exception), to appear in a hearing before a judge without the benefit of a disability attorney or disability advocate representative is ill-advised and may result in a lost opportunity to win disability benefits.