5 Reasons You Need a Lawyer for Your Social Security Disability Appeal

It is not fair. You have worked hard and paid into the system. Now it is time to collect on that because you have been injured and cannot work anymore.

You play by the book, go to your doctor appointments, get all the paperwork and send in your application for Social Security disability.

No money is coming in. You are getting desperate, waiting on a reply from the Social Security Office. Finally, it arrives in the mail.

You rip open the envelope. Denied! Now what?

If this sounds like you, you are not alone. At least 70% of people get denied the first time they apply for Social Security disability. 

Many people give up when they receive the first denial letter and do not bother filing a social security disability appeal. That is a mistake.

Here are five ways a lawyer for social security disability appeal can help.

Experience

It is hard to understand all the jargon and terminology involved in disability claims and appeals. The Social Security Administration has a list of rules and regulations that can be confusing to the average person.

A lawyer who specializes in Social Security disability benefits has the experience to cut through all the red tape. It is hard enough for someone who is already dealing with an injury and all the doctor’s appointments to have to try to figure out the paperwork involved.

According to the SSA, 31% of applicants get denied for reasons not related to their medical condition. Frankly, a big portion of this 31% is because of not filing the correct paperwork or missed deadlines.

Provides the Right Evidence

Your attorney will communicate with your physician and any other medical facility to get required medical records. If witnesses are needed to strengthen your case, your lawyer will present them at your hearing.

An experienced SSD lawyer knows the evidence that will strengthen your case, so you have the best chance of winning.

Your Lawyer Will Be at Your Side

When you do have to go in front of the judge, you will have your lawyer by your side. He or she will help prepare you for the questions you will face.

There will be medical experts at the hearing, and your attorney will ask the right questions during cross-examination to help your case.

Reduces Stress for Your Social Security Disability Appeal

It can take up to two years or longer to get your case resolved. Much of this depends on the complexity of the case, and where you live.

After your initial application, it takes on average, six months to receive a decision. After your first appeal, it takes anywhere from two to seven months.

These lingering timelines can be highly frustrating, exhausting and stressful.

Because of all the paperwork and phone calls, it is easy to become overwhelmed and you may feel like giving up. Having an attorney can help you see the end goal more clearly to keep you going in the right direction.

SSD Attorneys Work on a Contingency Basis

It can be difficult for a person who is struggling to pay the bills because of the lack of income. How are you supposed to have money to pay for a lawyer?!?!

Good news! An SSD lawyer receives payment only after winning your case.

The Social Security Administration regulates legal representative’s fees, and the lawyers must file a fee petition or fee agreement with the SSA.

The average payment to a lawyer for SSD representation is 25% of the past-due benefits with a maximum of $6,000. Some disability lawyers will charge for any out-of-pocket costs as well.

We Can Help

There is no need to go it alone. Put the burden on our shoulders and let us help carry the load. 

Contact us right away so we can start working on your Social Security disability appeal so you can get the benefits that you deserve. 

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Out of Work Due to a Disability? 6 Community Resources That Can Help

Being out of work due to a disability can be scary and overwhelming.

Especially if you are unsure of what you should be doing until you get approved for social security.

Thankfully, there are many community resources available that can provide you with assistance and aid during your period of unemployment.

Here are 6 community resources that can help you as you navigate this period of transition.

AbilityOne

AbilityOne is a network of many community-based agencies that offer job opportunities and job training for people living with disabilities. In fact, there are more than 600 community groups involved with this organization. This makes AbilityOne a great resource for finding work, or for receiving any training you may need to make a career switch.

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) offices are dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities become employed and fully engaged within their community. This office provides employment services as well as individual counseling to people with disabilities. They even provide technical assistance and job training.

In order to be helped by the DVR, you must apply for the services. They will collect information regarding your identity, disability, and work status. You can see if you are eligible for DVR services here.

Independent Living Centers

Independent Living Centers (ILC) are another great community resource for unemployed people with disabilities. Your local ILC office can provide you with a variety of things, including job coaching and training. They also usually have connections with employers in your area that are interested in hiring people with disabilities, so they can provide you with job connections.

Disability Guide

Are you a veteran looking for more information about what disability benefits you may be entitled to? Or are you simply looking for more informational resources about disability benefits and employment? Either way, this free disability benefits guide can answer important questions such as:

  • What benefits are available to me?
  • How do I qualify for benefits?
  • How do I get these benefits?

Want to learn more? Download our free disability report.

American Job Center

Did you know there are close to 3,000 American Job Centers across the country? These centers have many resources to help you get back on your feet, such as job training and free computer access. Their counselors can help you explore job opportunities, revise your resume, and find something that works for you.

Legal Assistance

Are you stressed that you will not receive the disability benefits you deserve? If so, you should connect with a qualified attorney who can help you increase your chances of receiving your benefits. Some law firms have also compiled a variety of blog posts and articles on the subject of disability benefits that you can read before meeting with a lawyer to discuss your options.

Final Thoughts on Community Resources for People with Disabilities

Being unemployed with disabilities can be scary. But with the right community resources, it doesn’t have to be! By exploring the resources available you can find the assistance you need until you get approved for social security.

Are you looking for legal assistance for your disability benefits? Not sure where to start? Contact us for efficient and courteous legal assistance.

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How to Choose a Social Security Lawyer

How to Pick a Social Security Lawyer

If you’re in the process of applying for Social Security Disability, or if you’ve already applied and are looking to get a bit more help for an appeal – then the following criteria can help you select the best Social Security lawyer for your case.  

Work With Someone That Makes You Comfortable

A Fear Factor Can Play a Big Role in Your Relationship with Your Attorney

The first and maybe most important factor in picking a Social Security Lawyer is overcoming the initial fear factor of reaching out for help.

Let’s be honest, most of the time the first person called is the attorney with the commercial on TV or that website that shows up on the top of Google.  However, as we’ve learned in our firm, a lot of clients gravitate towards representatives that can understand them.  For instance, if you’re seeking to claim PTSD and already apprehensive about reaching out for help, getting someone on the other end of the phone that has an imposing persona very easily could lead to trouble at many points during the claims process.

A Social Security claim or appeal can be complex, it’s very important that you have confidence in your lawyer, but also that you have the impression that you can communicate with them or their office without worrying about how they might view, judge, or aggravate your impairments.

Be careful to choose a lawyer that doesn’t intimidate you in any way.  You’re going through a tough enough process, keep the barriers to your relationship low and the trust factor high.

Trust w/ Your Social Security Lawyer

Your Lawyer-Client Relationship is Built on Trust

The things that generate trust vary widely from one person to the next.  However, there are some basic principals that everyone can rely upon when determining if a given Social Security Lawyer is trustworthy.

Ratings & Reviews

Avvo is a great tool for getting straight-forward ratings and reviews of attorneys.  They have a proprietary ratings system and review system that they claim can’t be gamed.  This is very important, and as you can imagine, review and rating stuffing is common and sadly something that erodes confidence in any rating system.  

In addition to Avvo, Google provides a great system for getting reviews of all sorts of lawyers, including disability lawyers.  If you do a search for disability lawyers near you, or for a specific disability lawyer, you will likely see their Google ratings & reviews pop-up next to their listing.  This is a bit more crowd-sourced than Avvo but is a very valuable tool for both selecting a great disability lawyer, and for reviewing them after you’ve worked with them.  Here is an example of ratings and reviews using Google.

Videos

The internet has been around for a while at this point.  As have digital cameras.  The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is just as true today as when it was coined.  In fact, it might even be truer today than ever.  Consider how a picture helps to establish rapport and trust.

You want a disability lawyer that shows you they know what they’re doing.   They are respectable and respected.  And they will be the best champion for your fight, right?  That’s why every attorney, doctor, consultant, author, etc. has a professional picture of themselves somewhere on their website.  But one of the biggest problems is that pictures can (and are) staged.  However, an authentic video is much harder to fake.

Check out the prospective disability attorney’s Facebook and YouTube channels.  First off, do they even have social media at all?  And on those channels, see if they have videos sharing insights, talking to clients, answering questions.  Sometimes these videos will also be on the lawyer’s website or blog as well.

Watching how the lawyer answers questions will give you a lot more than a picture – at least in helping you to build an idea of who they are and how they communicate.

Ask yourself, “is this someone that can communicate my challenges, is this someone I can communicate my challenges to?”

A short video will usually give you an enormous amount of insight into answering those questions.

Blogs

When seeking insight into a disability lawyer’s persona don’t forget to look at the extras on their website.  Blogs, especially, will tell you how committed they are to sharing information with you.

Is their website a bunch of short questions with hooks at the end of each one?  If so, how does that help you, as a potential client, to understand the processes involved in your claim?  Alternatively, do they have a wealth of information about all aspects of your claim, and questions you hadn’t even thought to ask yet in their blog or newsletter?  Six months from now when you’re wondering what your chances are of succeeding, this might be exactly what you need to keep your spirits high.

A blog may not be what you initially thought of when thinking, “how do I pick a Social Security lawyer,” but now that you’re in the search, take a look around and see who’s keeping their clients and future clients informed and who’s just fishing for the next client.

Capacity

You Should Feel Like You’re the Only Client

Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?  Think about this for a moment.. this is something that can help you to identify what type of disability lawyer or disability law firm to work with.

One might argue that a huge firm with many thousands of cases is big because they are good.  They certainly have the advertising budget to portray that success. However, the continued existence of many hundreds, or even thousands, of community disability lawyers fly in the face of that sentiment.  At the end of the day, you can deal with one bureaucracy (huge firm) to fight another one (SSA), or you can work with a personalized firm who remembers your name when you call.

It comes back to that question, big fish or small fish?  The small fish sometimes has a hard time being heard.

Responsiveness

Communication is Key!

In response to the big fish/small fish question, you do, at some, point want to consider how responsive your disability lawyer will be to your unique needs.  Hint, they have to recognize that you indeed do have unique needs in the first place.

Like a Dr. Office, it’s probably not reasonable that the attorney can stop immediately talking to one patient (client) to take a call from another.  That’s why staff and client liaisons exist.  However, it is reasonable and should be necessary, to have an attorney that is available to talk, within a reasonable amount of time.

Can you call the firm and get a response from the attorney in a reasonable amount of time?  Can you schedule a time to actually come into the firm and talk to the lawyer that’s representing you?  Not everyone can…

Being able to communicate, even briefly, is something you’re going to want to do as a disability hearing approaches.

Helpfulness

The Strength of Our Network is the Strength of Our Work

During the course of your claim (or appeal), there will be curveballs thrown your way.  Whether those curveballs originate from within the claim itself or they happen to come from directions yet unseen, you want someone on your side that “knows someone.”

One of the best things about working with an experienced and established disability lawyer is that you’re also working with their network.  A good lawyer doesn’t gain experience by being an island unto themselves.  They often work with partners in similar fiends to increase the effectiveness of their own services.

To you, the client or future client, this means – that when that curveball arrives you can ask for referrals, assistance, resource information, and things like this.  Or rather, you should be able to.  Unfortunately, this also relies on the idea that your disability lawyer is local, which as we know from previous discussions, is just not always the case.

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How to Win An SSI Appeal (Step by Step)

How to Win An SSI Appeal Step by Step

If you have applied for SSI or SSDI, you probably know that for many, getting approved on your first shot is a challenge. 

Getting approved is not an impossible challenge, but the odds can be against you if you did not sufficiently prove your disability, or if you did not demonstrate how you rate social security benefits. 

If you now have, or fear that you will have a denial letter in hand, here’s a step-by-step approach to help you in appealing an SSI or SSDI denial.

 

Step 1: Create a Plan to Appeal Your SSI or SSDI Denial

In a previous article, we covered, briefly, what you can do if you do receive the dreaded denial letter.  The first thing you should do is not panic, take a few breaths, and accept that this is not the end of the process.  Like most initial applicants, you have been denied.  However, the evidence shows that if you stick with the claim, you have a strong chance of eventually overturning the denial in appeal.

Of course, your chances of success at this point are directly related to the quality of your plan and your ability to execute it.  Or for many, to find someone who can build a plan for you and carry it out as well.  We are talking about a professional advocate or attorney.

 

Step 2: Retain an Attorney (Optional but Encouraged)

Technically, this step is optional.  Also, you can retain an attorney at almost any point during the claim or appeal process.  However, a strong case can be made that hiring an attorney early on is the more prudent approach.  Regardless, you are reading this article from a post on a law firm’s website, so…

There are some reasons, a lot of reasons actually, that you would want to consider this as an option.  First being that this is one form of law that is based entirely on contingency.  If a lawyer does not win your case for you, they will not be getting paid.  Everyone then, you and the law firm, has a financial incentive, and hopefully a personal one too, to get you the benefits you need.

The second reason, and from a coldly logical perspective, a very powerful reason is that you might go through this process only once in your life.  Many of the things that will gum-up the process are avoidable.  And the un-avoidable issues can be addressed quickly and efficiently if you know they are likely to arise.  Only going through this process once, you have to learn all of this the hard way, or be extremely lucky.  Alternatively, a disability attorney goes through these processes a couple of hundred times a year (thousands of times in a career).

You can get pretty good at handling these things throughout several thousand claims. Still, for the die-hard do-it-yourself type, we will go back to the step-by-step.  Remember though; you can retain an attorney at almost any point in the process.

 

Step 3: File for Reconsideration

You need to know that at the point of denial the clock starts ticking.  60 days.  That’s what you have to act.  Whether that action is retaining a disability attorney or beginning the process of appeal yourself, you need to make sure you do so before 60 days is up.  Otherwise, you’re going to have to start all over again.

You can file for reconsideration a couple of ways.  One way is to file a Form SSA-561 (Request for Reconsideration).  The other is to file online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appeal.  The basic instructions for this process will also likely accompany your disability denial letter.

So what is a reconsideration, you ask?  It’s an independent review of the original claim by someone who has not been a part of the original decision.  Their job is to take a look at the initial evidence submitted (by you or others) and to take into account any new evidence you might have.  This last point is something that you want to start investigating at this point too.

 

Step 4: Get Your Records Together

To understand the basis for your disability denial, you usually have to investigate what records the Social Security Administration considered in making their determination.  It’s very common for critical pieces of medical evidence to be absent from the disability determination records.  It may be that you, or your doctor, didn’t share specifically what was needed.  Or that there was confusion about the conditions leading to your inability to work.

Whatever the case may be, getting a copy of your records is going to be essential to re-stating, re-phrasing, and correcting your appeal claim.   Write down a list of all the doctors, therapists, support groups, or even friends who’ve helped you during the last five years.  If you can’t remember the last five years, write down what you can remember.


Tip!

Sometimes remembering when a meeting or appointment occurred can be hard. Using holidays or key dates as markers to your memory can be very helpful.

For example, if you remember you had a Dr. appointment a couple of years ago but not when thinking about what else you had to adjust to make it happen.

“I remember I had to schedule that Dr. appointment around Thanksgiving because my sister was visiting..”  <-  The appointment happened sometime before or after Thanksgiving.

It can be hard to remember all this stuff, but if we use something we’re better at remembering to act as a memory anchor, it can help.


Step 5: Start Working on Understanding Why you Were Denied

Good to go, you’re getting your records together.  This simple act is going to give you the tools to understand where your claim went sideways.  At this point, you want to work on figuring out if there was a lack of understanding on the part of the Social Security Administration, or was there a lack of evidence.  Sometimes these go together.

If it was a lack of understanding, you can start approaching the problem from the perspective that Social Security has all the evidence, they didn’t have the understanding to put it together.  Naturally, you’re the one living your life, so in many respects, you’re the only one who knows how your challenges affect your ability to work.  Not even your doctor may understand why you can’t pursue gainful activity.

This brings up a very common situation.  Although we are all the expert on what we experience, we can’t always describe it or convey it very well.  Sometimes, we lack the speaking or writing ability to describe adequately the level of impairment we are facing.  Consider trying to convey the level of your disability in various ways (recorded conversation, writing it down, pictures, etc.).

The whole point of understanding, in this step, is to put yourself in the place where you can see why your claim was denied.  If it was as we just described a lack of understanding on the part of Social Security, you can focus on making it more clear to everyone the challenges you face.  If however, your problem was lack of evidence, you can attack that problem in a relatively straightforward approach.  Get the evidence, everywhere you can.

 

Step 6: Request an SSI Appeal Hearing (If Your Reconsideration is Denied)

No one is going to be surprised that reconsiderations often result in the same outcome as the initial claim.  You have very little time to file for reconsideration and you’re probably still trying to get a grasp on why the initial application was denied – all while the reconsideration is processing.

Let’s assume for the sake of this step-by-step approach that your reconsideration failed to overturn the initial disability denial.  At this point, you can (should) request a hearing.

A hearing is your chance to present to an administrative law judge (ALJ) your claim.  You can provide witnesses and there may also be professional witnesses present (medical or vocational experts) as well.

After the hearing, you’ll receive a determination from the judge, usually received via US Mail.

 

Step 7: Study!  Find Info to Help You Through this Process

During this whole process, you should be looking to find resources to help you out. You don’t want to be figuring this out on your own.  If you do, you’re hurting your chances, and potentially costing yourself further financial burden and stress.

Here are some resources to help you with the process:

The Appeals Process: This is a PDF from Social Security that helps you understand the process of appealing.

MDJunction Forum: This is a forum for general advice and support relating to Social Security Disability and claims advice

Disability Answers WA State: This is a Facebook page built for the community and to facilitate sharing information for those experiencing disabilities.

Lilac City Law Blog: Shameless plug here, but we’re genuinely trying to provide as much information as possible for those working through the disability claims process.  And for those that need the help, we ensure that too.

Social Security Disability Resource Center: An incredible, free resource, compiled by a former disability claims examiner.  The goal is to inform applicants about the Social Security Disability and SSI claims & appeals process.

Our Lilac City Law Ultimate Disability Guide: A free resource that breaks down the basics in an easy to read & portable format.  

4 Biggest Myths About Social Security E-Book: Get to know how & why this process is confusing.  And best of all, what you can do to find success in your claim!


Step 8: Work on Centering Yourself

This step is about self-care.  In truth, this process is slow, it is stressful, and it doesn’t always result in the correct decision.  Sometimes you need to go through it more than once, and sometimes you need to appeal to a higher authority.  Regardless of where you fall in this whole mess, having a sense of urgency is going to result in you potentially harming your mental health.  The system won’t go faster, unfortunately.

Consider, joining a support group on Facebook (you can even join our Facebook page and share your questions & frustrations there).    Other things to consider is making sure your close family or friends know what that you’re pursuing this.  While this might be something you want to keep to yourself, you very easily could end up needing some moral support during the appeal process.  It’s not usually easy.

And, the last point on this, don’t discount the value of a good therapist — someone who can help you to stay confident and centered during the appeal.

 

Step 9: After the SSI Appeal Hearing

Well, one way or another, you’re going to get a decision.  It may be great – “your claim has been approved, and here’s the expected back-pay amount.”  Or it may feel like Groundhog’s day, yet another denial.  If you’re denied at the hearing level, is it the end?  No.

You can keep going; you have the option of asking for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council.  At this point, though, some requests are denied.  Meaning, you may not be given a review by the Appeals Council.  If the Appeals Council denies the review, you’ll receive a letter as to why you remain denied. You can either re-file for disability at this point (yes back to the beginning, sorry) or you can file

If the Appeals Council grants a review, they may review themselves or send it to back to an ALJ (judge) for review.

At this point, if you disagree with an Appeals Council decision, or if they decided not to review the claim, you can file a lawsuit in a federal district court.

This will all be laid out in the decision letters you receive at each stage of the process.

 

Step 10: Keep At It! Never Give Up on Your SSI or SSDI Appeal

We’ve said it several times at this point, but the best thing you can do to eventually get the decision you’re looking for is to stick with your claim.  Keep at it.  Don’t miss deadlines, and reach out for help when you need it.  Or even before you need it.  Do your best to be pro-active.  And try as best you can to stay patient and stay centered.

If you have questions about any part of this process or any support during the appeal – let us know.  And if you have great tips for others going through an appeal, we want to hear them too!

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Understanding the Difference Between SSD & SSI Benefits

If you’ve recently developed a disability and lost the ability to work, you should know about the benefits available to you. The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) provides two main types of programs for people with disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Make sure you understand the main differences between SSDI and SSI before you start applying.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Also known as SSD, this federally funded program pays disability benefits to people with disabilities under certain conditions. For one, your illness or impairment cannot be partial or short-term: it must prevent you from working for at least 12 months or be expected to end in death. You must be younger than your full retirement age, and you must have worked in a job covered by Social Security long enough to qualify. You can usually continue to receive benefits until you are able to work again on a regular basis, or until you retire, at which point your disability benefits convert to retirement benefits.

While your eligibility for SSI depends on your income, SSDI can theoretically be granted to a disabled person of any income level. Benefits are paid to you and your dependent family members based on a formula applied to your past earnings.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

A federal income supplement program called SSI program is available for people with disabilities who have little or no income and limited access to resources. It is funded by general tax revenues. SSI specifically pays benefits to adults and children with disabilities, as well as people without disabilities who are 65 and older, as long as they meet the financial limits. It provides them with the cash they need to secure basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter.

Generally, anyone who is disabled, blind, or aged 65 or older can qualify for SSI if they also have limited income and resources. You will have to meet a number of other specific requirements—for example, you must be a citizen, national, or eligible alien; you must reside in the US; and you must not be confined to an institution like a hospital or prison, to name a few.

Unlike SSDI, you must stay below a certain income threshold to continue receiving SSI benefits.

The SSA has certain definitions in place for children and adults with disabilities. Children with disabilities generally have a physical or mental impairment that either severely limits their functional capabilities and can potentially lead to death, or that lasts longer than 12 months. The adult definition of disability is similar, but it involves a medically provable physical or mental impairment that prevents the adult from working (or pursuing “substantial gainful activity”). If your medical condition is serious and obvious, the SSA will try to provide your benefits as quickly as possible.

If you meet the legal and medical definition of a disabled person, and you believe you will be unable to work for a year or more, you should look into SSDI and SSI. You’ll need to complete the required application forms and send medical evidence of your disability. You should consult a knowledgeable attorney if you have any concerns about your eligibility or application status. The lawyers at Lilac City Law can offer you advice, file your forms, and make sure you have all the appropriate documentation. We can also help you appeal a previous decision. Give us a call today to get the persistent legal representation you need. We’ll help you secure fair compensation for your disability.

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