Millions of people claim disability benefits with the Social Security Administration; as of December 2021, the SSA reported that over 9 million Americans were receiving Social Security disability benefits. However, to receive these benefits, it is necessary to undergo an application process. If you or a loved one are applying for disability benefits, hiring a disability attorney increases the likelihood of receiving an SSA award or settlement award.
What Does a Disability Attorney Do?
A disability attorney’s primary job is to ensure that people with disabilities receive the benefits they are entitled to. In order to do so, they specialize in disability law and dealing with the Social Security Administration, medical providers, and administrative law judges (ALJs). This legal and professional expertise is a major asset for those navigating the disability benefits claim process. The following examples are just a few of the ways hiring a disability attorney can help you receive the benefits you deserve.
Assessing the case
In some cases, it may not be immediately clear whether an individual is qualified to seek disability benefits. Because disability attorneys specialize in state and federal disability law, they are well qualified to assess accurately whether an applicant has a valid claim.
In order to file a claim for disability benefits, it is crucial that you have sufficient evidence of your qualifications. In order to build your case, a disability lawyer will work to compile any documentation, medical records, expert testimonies, or other forms of evidence that support your claim.
Help appealing a denial of benefits
Finally, a disability attorney can help you appeal a decision if the SSA denies your disability claim. In some cases, an appeal may make its way all the way to federal courts, and at the very least, you are likely to be granted a hearing by an administrative law judge. The further your appeal goes, the more important it is that you have an attorney representing your best interests.
How Much Does a Disability Lawyer Cost?
When you start your research for legal representation for your claim, you will schedule a consultation with a disability lawyer. This consultation is a free review of your case; if the attorney decides that you have a viable claim, they will file your request for benefits with the Social Security Administration. If the claim is approved, that is the end of the process; however, if the claim is denied, your attorney can assist you with appealing the SSA’s decision.
The majority of disability attorneys are paid on a contingent-fee basis. In a disability benefits claim, this means that the attorney’s legal fees are based on the total “past-due benefits” (the total amount a person is owed in benefits from the onset of their disability to the start of their coverage). Therefore, the claim or appeal needs to be approved before a disability attorney is compensated. Additionally, there are limits set by the government on how much disability attorneys can charge their clients. Disability attorneys can receive either 25% of the applicant’s past-due benefits or $7,200 (whichever is the lower amount).
Why Do I Need a Disability Lawyer?
Technically, you are not required to hire a disability lawyer to file a claim for disability benefits. Applicants may choose to file their own claim without the help of a representative. However, there are a few situations in which it is particularly recommended that you consult with an attorney before filing your claim (or appeal) with the SSA.
You do not understand the application process
Filing a claim with the SSA involves many steps and thorough documentation. Additionally, there may be extenuating factors affecting your disability that make filing a claim independently exceedingly challenging. If this is the case, it is in your best interests to have an attorney assess your case, gather documentation of your disability, and file your claim for benefits.
You are currently employed
If, out of necessity, you are currently employed, this will, unfortunately, make it more likely that your initial claim with the SSA will be rejected. An attorney will help you to understand if your work will prohibit you from claiming the full benefits you are entitled to.
Your initial claim was denied
If you have filed your initial claim independently and it has since been rejected, you now have the option to file an appeal with the SSA. Because the appeal process can be complicated, lengthy, and legally complex, it is recommended that an experienced attorney represents you.
You are overwhelmed by medical documents
The SSA has high expectations regarding the documentation of a disability and an applicant’s eligibility to claim benefits. Depending on the circumstance, there may be a significant amount of medical documentation to sort through before a claim can be filed. For a disability attorney and their staff, however, this process is a simple matter of routine. Hiring an attorney to gather documentation and file your claim is a major benefit of hiring representation.
How To Find a Reputable Disability Attorney?
If you or a loved one are in the midst of filing a disability claim, there are various resources available to help you find quality legal representation and get the benefits you deserve.
Disability Rights Legal Center
The Disability Rights Legal Center is a 501 C-3 nonprofit organization that focuses on furthering the civil rights of people with disabilities and those affected by cancer. If you are in need of legal services, fill out the DRLC’s online application.
National Disability Rights Network
The National Disability Rights Network is a nonprofit organization that is also the largest provider of “legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.” While the NDRN does not directly represent applicants who are applying for benefits, it offers a wide variety of informational resources for assistance. To learn more, visit www.ndrn.org.
A successful disability claim often comes down to the representation of a quality legal representative (or lack thereof). Therefore, if you have not yet filed your claim or if you need to file a disability appeal, finding a qualified attorney as soon as possible is the first priority. To make this easy, Expertise.com offers a legal directory to help you find disability attorneys in your local area.
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