Have you submitted a disability benefits claim and are waiting to hear whether or not it’s been approved? Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against you. Only 23% of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims are approved at the initial application stage. Sometimes, even less if you did not use a disability lawyer.
Of course, you can always appeal a denial of disability, but even then, you’re facing an uphill battle. The total number of approvals, whether initially or upon appeal, is only about 34% of all claims filed.
Is there a way to improve your chances of receiving disability benefits? Luckily, the answer is yes. You can hire a disability lawyer to help you navigate this complex process.
A Successful Disability Lawyer Has Medical Knowledge
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cases are particularly tricky because they require an in-depth understanding of medical conditions that can interfere with a person’s ability to perform their job duties. Therefore, the lawyer that you choose must be experienced in the specialty of disability law.
You are most likely not going to get the results you are looking for if you hire your tax lawyer to tackle your disability case. Look for a law firm whose lawyers have experience litigating medical-related cases. Ask them how many disability cases they have handled and if they have dealt with your particular disability before.
A Successful Disability Lawyer Understands the Law
This statement should go without saying, but the complexity of disability cases means that a lawyer must know the Social Security system’s requirements inside and out.
In all disability situations, your lawyer will be seeking to demonstrate one, or all, of the following:
your medical condition meets the criteria of a condition that is among those described by the Social Security Administration (aka a “disability listing“)
you cannot perform your previous work in accordance with Social Security’s “grid” system, which classifies exertion associated with job duties
you cannot work even a sedentary position
you have limitations that aren’t covered by the grid but impact your ability to perform a job
An Experienced Disability Lawyer Will Be Choosy About Cases
Lawyers who specialize in disability claim appeals cannot charge clients an upfront fee or retainer.
Instead, they receive compensation on contingency. Once your appeal has been approved, and you have been awarded a sum of back pay from the Social Security Administration, your lawyer’s feeswill be deducted.
Not having to pay any amount upfront is a massive bonus for clients who may already be struggling financially due to their disability. It means you can afford excellent representation – and you can be awarded your disability benefits even within our challenging disability system!
It also means that if a lawyer takes on your case, they are also taking on the risk of not achieving a favorable outcome. It is in everyone’s interest to work hard for you.
A Great Disability Advocate in Lilac City Law
Our disability team has the know-how and expertise to help you fight and win your disability appeal. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact us today.
For most, the biggest concern comes with how a disability lawyer is paid. You may worry that you cannot afford a lawyer and therefore will not be able to receive the help. The truth is that a disability lawyer is only paid if you are approved for social security disability. When you are approved for disability social security will owe you back pay for the time that you suffered from your disability, but were not yet receiving benefits. Once your case is approved your lawyer fee will be taken from your back pay (up to twenty-five percent or $6,000).
When is a good time to contact a disability lawyer? That depends on how comfortable and confident you are with filling out all of the necessary paperwork for disability applications.
Remember the chances of getting your initial claim approved hover around 20%, for a variety of reasons. With a lawyer involved at this stage, chances increase by almost 10 percent, and if you stick with them through your appeal, your chances of success grow to well over 50%.
A disability lawyer comes in handy later on when going through the rigamarole of Social Security.
Advantages of Hiring a Disability Lawyer
Here are some clear-cut advantages to hiring a disability lawyer:
You will not have to keep going to the social security office and spend so much time waiting
The paperwork alone is easily more than forty pages long. An attorney can help to gather all the paperwork needed.
Disability Lawyers know the language. Social security and courts are very wordy and hard to understand at times. Your lawyer will know all the terms and appropriate ways of responding.
An experienced attorney knows the system like the back of their hand. This means that the whole process will be a lot faster and no guesswork for you!
You will never miss a deadline. The social security administration is very serious about their deadlines, and if one is missed, you may have to start the whole application process over again. A lawyer can be there for you and stay on top of the mundane things such as this.
When appealing a claim that has already been denied your attorney may be able to send in a brief that compels the judge to not need a hearing and approve your benefits then and there.
Rest assured that your attorney will be professional and ethical; it’s the law and rules of conduct for the social security administration
No upfront payments needed. No payments until you start receiving back pay and only then will your lawyer receive payment from your backpay before you even receive your first check.
We Help Disability Claimants In Spokane, Eastern Washington, & Northern Idaho
No matter where you are in the process, we can help. Contact us today!
Did you know that hiring an SSI Lawyer to help with your appeal can increase your chances of being approved by double?
How? Why? Does it matter that much to retain a great SSI lawyer?
Reasons to Hire an SSI Lawyer
The process of applying for SSI can take anywhere from one month to three years (Initial decision through any appeals if needed). Having someone to help you at any point during the process will make it less stressful and ensure you meet deadlines and guidelines. Missed deadlines are one of the big reasons disability claims end up getting denied in the first place.
In addition to helping you to meet all deadlines, even the ones you did not know existed, SSI Lawyers should be able to access medical evidence, employment records, and all the other parts of your life that go into making an airtight case for the benefits you rate. The goal is always to present the best case that demonstrates you meet the Social Security Administration’s official disability definition.
Your attorney will also spend time preparing you for questions you may come to face when in an appeals hearing, such as:
Describe your symptoms?
Are you currently seeing a physician for your disability?
When were you unable to continue work?
Are you still able to take care of personal hygiene?
How long can you be physically active before needing to rest?
There are little to no out of pocket fees to hire SSI lawyers! Disability lawyer fees are paid out of your back pay for your benefits and are limited to 25% (up to $6000). You will be asked to sign a contingency fee agreement stating that they will only get paid if you receive disability benefits. Any out of pocket fees you pay will be from medical record requests, any copies, and sometimes postage. Be sure to ask up front, what out-of-pocket fees you may have and if you need to pay them before or after they close your case.
The sooner you contact a disability lawyer the better. If you have questions about the initial application process, you can call an attorney and set up a time to go over the procedure, your reason for filing, what to expect, and any other questions you have about the process or benefits you should be receiving.
If you already applied, you can still contact a lawyer and they will help you to figure out what to do to best approach whatever step you are at in the application or appeals process.
Contact A Disability Lawyer Today!
What a Disability Attorney Will Do
Some positives to having a disability lawyer on your side are:
They will avidly work so that your case is seriously considered and give you the best chances possible at getting awarded
They will go over your medical history to properly present your case
They prepare you for questioning that is bound to happen in court
They gather further evidence from physicians and so on to further prove your case
They can appeal your claim to the federal district court level
They will NOT miss critical filing deadlines!
Hassle Free & Less Stressful For Everyone!
Most disability lawyers will offer you a free consultation to go over your case. We certainly do! They can also review your denial letter and request your original claim file. The disability lawyer can look through your file and see if you missed any important information that will help your case. They can also see if you made any mistakes in the initial application.
Cost of Hiring a Disability Lawyer
Something else to keep in mind while deciding on hiring a disability lawyer is that they work on contingency. Contingency means your lawyer will only get paid if you win your claim. In the end, your hired lawyer can only receive 25% (up to $6000) of your back pay for their fees.
Feel free to do your research on lawyers. There is a long road ahead of you! Most Disability lawyers will gladly do a free initial review of your claim. Doing so will open up the opportunity early on to decipher the good and the bad of your original claim.
One of the big challenges of finding and retaining a disability lawyer, though, is that there are many lawyers to choose from, and not all of them are as good as they could be.
So, when you hire a lawyer how do you know if you have a good lawyer?
Here are five warning signs that you might have a lousy disability lawyer.
Your Disability Lawyer is Not Available
Disability lawyers usually have a lot of cases they are working on so you may not always speak to your lawyer when you call. However, you should always be able to speak with someone at the lawyer’s office (secretary, an assistant, paralegal).
If they are unable to answer your question, your disability lawyer or someone who can answer your questions should return your call in a reasonable amount of time. If this is not happening, you may want to find a lawyer who will be more accessible to you when you have questions or concerns.
Your Disability Lawyer Makes Impossible Promises
Having a disability lawyer does not guarantee that you will win your case. A disability lawyer should never promise that they will win your case. They need to be upfront and tell you what chance you should have. Most disability lawyers will not take your case unless they feel there is a chance of winning, but again that does not guarantee it. A disability lawyer should also never promise you a dollar amount if you should win your case.
Your Disability Lawyer Doesn’t Follow-Through
If your disability lawyer says they are going to do something and they do not follow through, then this should raise some red flags. Their job is to help you gather the medical evidence and statements that will help make your case strong. When they say they are going to contact your medical professionals or third-parties to collect the evidence, they should be following through. You will not have a case if this is not done promptly.
Your Disability Lawyer Doesn’t Meet With You
Your disability lawyer should call you or meet with you in person a month or two before your hearing to prepare you for the hearing. They should review with you questions you may be asked during the hearing and help you prepare answers that will benefit your case not harm it.
Your Disability Lawyer is Not Respectful
A disability lawyer should be respectful of your situation and not make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about. They should be kind and understanding when you explain your situation and help you understand the process. They should also be respectful of your time.
This goes back to number one above (availability) as well as working with your schedule when scheduling meetings or phone calls.
You Deserve Better and It’s Not Too Late
If your disability lawyer is doing any of these, you should probably get a different lawyer. Filing for SSDI is already confusing and difficult enough without your lawyer making it complicated. When choosing a disability lawyer, asking questions before even meeting with them will help you find the right lawyer for you. Here is an article that will help find a great disability lawyer.
When filing for disability through the Social Security Administration, here is a list of eight things you can do to help your disability lawyer win your claim.
Keep this list handy, in case anything on it changes. And if you are just now reaching out to a disability lawyer, here are some of the things you can expect you will need to provide
Provide Basic Demographic Information
Information about you
Birthdate, place of birth, and social security number
Your current and any former spouse’s name, birthdate, age, social security number, marriage date and dates of divorce or death
Dates of birth and names of minor children
Account number and routing number of your financial intuition if you want direct deposit of your benefits
Information about your medical condition
Contact information for someone who knows about your medical conditions and can help with your application, such as a family member
Information about your illness, injury, or condition such as detailed information about all doctors, clinics, or hospitals who have treated you (name, address, phone number, patient ID, and dates of treatment)
List of prescription medications and the prescribing doctor
List of what medical tests you have had done including names and dates and who requested them
Information about your work
Gross pay for last year and the current year
Contact information for current employer (last year as well)
A copy of your social security statement
Information about all jobs help the past 15 years
Information for any other benefits you may be applying for such as Worker’s compensation, disability from the military, etc.
Get Your Documentation In Order
Proof of birth such as a birth certificate
Proof of US citizenship or lawful alien status
US military discharge papers (if before 1968)
W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns
Proof of any temporary or permanent worker’s compensation type benefits you receive
Sign Releases of Information
Sign a medical privacy release allowing your attorney to request any medical information you did not provide or any information your attorney needs to help your case. Your disability lawyer will also use this to request supportive statements from your doctors.
Prepare For Your Hearing With Your Disability Lawyer
Your lawyer will go over questions that could be asked of you during your hearing. Answer these as truthfully as possible even if you feel embarrassed. Your disability lawyer is not there to judge you; just to get as much information to help you win your case as possible.
Expect to be able to answer:
Questions related to your mood.
“How are you feeling?” “Are you anxious?” “Are you depressed?” “Do your medications make you feel different?” “Are there things you do not enjoy anymore?” “How do you get along with people?”
Questions about treatment:
“Do you see a doctor for your disabilities?” “How long have you been injured or sick?” “Have you tried any treatment?” “Do you take medications?” “Do your medications have any side-effects?” “Do you take any medication?” “Do you take the prescribed dosage of all medications?” “Do you have health insurance?”
Questions about employability:
“How did you know you were too sick to work?” “When did you become unable to work?” “Are you able to work now?”
“Do you use alcohol or other recreational drugs?” “Do you abuse any substances?” “Are you seeking substance abuse help or assistance?” “Have you been incarcerated?” “What were you incarcerated for?” “Do you take care of yourself?” “Can you cook, clean, drive, and shop on your own?” “Are there things you cannot do that you used to enjoy?” “What is your average day?” “Can you lift (common objects)?” “How far can you walk?” “Do you use stairs at home, in public?” “Can you read?” “Can you write?” “What is your education?” “What are your symptoms?”
Reach Out to Your Medical Providers
Ask your current physician to support your disability case and have him/her fill out a detailed statement or an RFC (residual functional capacity) form.
Pay Attention to Timelines
Respond as soon as possible to letters and notices and attend any medical exams scheduled by disability determination services (DDS).
Stay in Contact With Us
Check the status of your disability case on a regular basis. Call into the office, let us know you are still around 🙂
Have Patience, Even When It Is Challenging
Always be courteous, patient, and kind to all the people working on your case including your local social security rep, DDS, and your disability lawyer – if possible.
Here’s another article you might find helpful after having read this one!
Are you ready for your disability hearing? You are going to be side by side with your attorney, in front of an administrative law judge. Experts will be commenting on your desire and ability to work. And, you will have many things on your mind.
What if they think I am faking my injury? How will they make a decision? When will I be able to move past this appeal!? Is this Social Security nightmare almost over?
This period before your hearing is an uncomfortable time for most people. You are not alone in wondering how everything is going to proceed when you finally get your day in front of the ALJ. Here are a couple of tips to help you get yourself in a mindset that will reduce, though not likely eliminate, your anxiety.
Review Your Challenges & Barriers
At this point, you are bar-none the expert on knowing what your challenges are. How they impact you on a daily basis, and how you are unable to establish and maintain employment because of them. However, you should not be complacent and feel that you can “wing it” when asked.
Even before meeting with your disability attorney for your pre-hearing discussion, you should go over all the issues at least one more time by yourself. Take an hour or so and write down, exactly what challenges you face every day.
Start your review with thinking about how you get up in the morning, make breakfast, your daily routine, evening routine, leisure, chores, nightly routine, and sleep/rest.
This tip sounds simple, almost to the point of unnecessary, but often, we get so busy doing things that we forget the challenges we have to overcome to accomplish them. Taking a couple of minutes to review your day, and write things down, often results in a better personal understanding of your challenges, and puts you in a better frame of mind to recall them for others.
Now that you have considered your daily barriers, you should examine your disability claim. Make sure to look at things like, when you filed your disability claim. Who helped you file your disability claim? Also, what has the experience been like since you filed your claim?
Try to get a basic timeline put together of your current disability application status. Include application dates, appeals, doctors’ appointments, and even disability lawyer visits if that applies. All of these items are no-doubt already facts of the case, and readily available for both your disability lawyer and the judge, but you should strive to have an accurate and easily recallable understanding of how your disability claim has ended up at the hearing level too.
At worst, going through this exercise will be a bit of time out of your day. However, it might help you to be more effective in telling your story in context during the upcoming hearing, or in conversation with your disability lawyer before the hearing.
Show Up Early to Your Disability Hearing
If there was/is ever a time to be early for something this is it. It is very possible, your disability lawyer set up a prehearing conference with you, just to avoid this. However, regardless of why you should plan to be early, make it happen.
Plan for traffic to be the worst traffic in history. Plan for your vehicle to break down in your driveway. Realize that the bus will miss your stop. Understand that your alarm will break in the middle of the night while you are fast asleep. In the worst of all possible scenarios, how will you make it to your hearing?
Talk to Your Disability Lawyer
This last tip should be obvious, assuming you have a good disability lawyer. However, it is not uncommon to hear stories about claimants who meet their disability lawyer for the first time just prior to their hearing.
If you have a disability lawyer that has given you very little information or even ideas on how to prepare for your hearing, now is the time to be proactive. It may already be very difficult to change horses so far downstream, but that does not mean you have to be completely passive in regards to your disability claim.
Ask your disability lawyer, or their assistant, how you can best prepare. Ask them what info you should bring, whether you are going to be meeting with them, and what to expect. A great disability lawyer will not throw you to the wolves, they will prepare you for your hearing, and will help you so that you do not get blindsided during it.
For some, the concern about the cost of a great social security disability lawyer stops them from ever even picking up the phone to find out. We would all love to have the best disability attorney that money can buy, right! But, we all remember that line, “you get what you pay for…”
Would you believe though, that in the world of Social Security Disability Lawyers, that’s not how it works at all?
You Can Hire a World-Class Social Security Disability Lawyer
That’s, right. Whether they are a 5-Star, world-class Social Security Lawyer, or a brand new graduate from law school. We know you can afford them because as an industry, we all charge the same thing. And that’s been codified in law.
All Social Security Disability Lawyers Charge the Same Fees
Social Security Disability lawyers work on contingency. This is different than other types of law, or lawyers who you might hire on a retainer like basis. By this, we mean, many people often have a concept of lawyers being like an investment. You pay into them, sometimes a lot of money, and they’ll either save you money (in mitigated costs) or earn you money (in lawsuit $) in the long run.
This couldn’t be further from the truth with Social Security Disability Lawyers, and that’s probably a good thing. Remember, with SSI claims, claimants are in situations where they are asset restricted. Meaning, there is a maximum income and asset profile for these benefits. Even when talking about SSDI claims, most often claimants don’t have the personal assets to retain an attorney.
Fortunately, for the purposes of appealing a Social Security Disability claim, it costs you $0 to hire an attorney. Whether they are the best, the worst, or someone in-between… it costs the same.
The Best, The Worst, Someone In-Between
The fact that Social Security Disability lawyers earn a living on contingency of getting your claim awarded, puts you as the claimant, and the consumer in an advantageous position. You can shop around and find the right fit.
Since all of the firms cost the same, you get to figure out which one you’d rather work with. Don’t take too long though, as your claim/appeal is very depended on making sure many things are done in the proper order and within their respective deadlines.
So, How Much Will A Social Security Disability Lawyer Cost Me, and When?
We don’t want to mislead you in believing representation won’t have a fee. It will, if we win. But being that the fee is contingent upon a successful outcome, it will fall within a range depending on your claim. That range, however, is capped at $6,000.
So, let’s start with that cap. The most you’ll ever pay for Social Security Disability representation, if successful on your appeal, is $6,000. And that $6,000 will most likely be deducted from your bulk payment award.
But…What if My Back Payment is Less than $6,000?
That’s an excellent question. The cap as discussed above is in reality a maximum fee. You would not be paying that unless you had a back payment greater than ~$24,000. This is because the fee for all claims is 25% of the back payment award with the cap being $6,000.
Break it Down for Me
Scenario #1: Let’s say you are awarded on appeal for 18 months of back-payment for an SSI Claim. Your award will be in the ~$18k. The fees charged for your claim will be based on 25% of your award. $4,500 (out of the award – not out of pocket)
Scenario #2: Your claim is awarded on appeal and you will be getting approximately $5k in back payment. The representation fees will be based on 25% of your award: 25% of $5k = $1,250 (out of the award – not out of pocket)
Scenario #3: Your claim is awarded on appeal and you will be receiving about ~$80k in back payment. The representation fees will be based on 25% of your award but they will be capped at $6,000. Attorney’s fees = $6,000 (out of the award – not out of pocket)
If you’re wondering why Social Security denied your disability when your doctor soundly believed that your ailments were disabled…you’re not alone! That may offer some relief, but now that you’ve been denied (or were denied some time ago), you need to get ready to take another look at your application for social security disability.
Whether you’re re-applying for disability or filing an appeal with a disability appeal lawyer, you probably want to know what led to the miscommunication or outright disconnect between your doctor and the Social Security Administration.
To help you with this, we compiled the most common reasons we have noticed that Social Security denied claims against doctors’ opinions – for our social security disability appeal clients in Spokane, WA.
Your Doctor Didn’t know How to Communicate your Disability to Social Security
This reason is so common that we should write a whole article for the purpose of talking to doctors about how to communicate with Social Security (and the VA). The point here is that in almost every case doctors practice medicine, not law. And while your disability is a medical condition, the benefit – and process of obtaining it – is a very legal process.
Imagine you’re taking your car into a shop because it is misfiring.
You have someone that’s willing to pay for the repairs, but they need to know how it’s misfiring so they give you a form that says, “please describe what’s wrong with the car.”
You show up to the shop and ask the mechanic to fill out the form, and without context, the mechanic looks at the form and examines the car. On the form the mechanic accurately describes what’s wrong with the car:
“The car’s tires are 40% worn, they need to be rotated. The car needs an oil change. Windshield wipers need to be replaced. Rear window is cracked. Electrical issues – radio doesn’t work. Transmission needs service. Car Idles rough.”
Technically the mechanic answered the questions. But when you turn the form back in to get the repair $, your benefactor says, “I looked at the mechanics response, the problems with the car are generally superficial and are what you can expect from a 20 year old car, there’s no mention of a misfire, I’m denying your repair”
“Why,” you wonder? The reason, without context the mechanic had no idea what to focus their report on. They didn’t necessarily know that you needed to have that one item assessed. They didn’t know how their report would play into the overall discussion. Had they known they might have written something to the effect of:
“vehicle has wear and tear in a number of places, however, there is a critical misfiring causing a rough idle and imminent breakdown.”
Both statements are true – but in one the mechanic didn’t have context, and in the second one the mechanic knew the context.
This happens more often than you can believe! And it’s not only Social Security disability that this occurs in, VA claim denials are famous for this situation. A doctor will describe a constellation of issues, but not focus on the issue that is material to your disability claim. As such, it can create predictably poor results.
Your Doctor (or you) Didn’t Get Your records to Social Security Fast Enough
At every step of the Disability Application and Disability Appeal process you are under a ticking clock. You have timelines you have to hit, and the system will not wait for you. From the SSA’s (Social Security Administration) perspective, they have tens of thousands of cases to assess and to keep the process moving forward they have to decide or decline by a standard deadline date.
A side note to this reason is that if you missed timelines as a result of a disability of yours, that would be something you’d want to be documented in your reconsideration/appeal. You might also want to get help in filing those, as you don’t want to have the same problems at that point. If your doctor missed timelines, that’s going to be something that needs to be addressed too. A great advocate or local disability lawyer is great for this.
Your Doctor Never Even Met You
Be honest.. did you show up to your doctor appointment(s)? Did you know you had doctor appointments? Were you aware that the SSA might try to get ahold of medical records for the care you received (or sought to receive) on your conditions? In some cases, applicants have a pattern of not showing up to doctor appointments, even critical doctors appointments set by SSA for the purpose of evaluating your disability.
This is common enough of a problem that we had to cover it. It also means that you probably need some additional help when you file your new application or appeal. If you need someone to remind you, provide you transportation, give you motivation and a helping hand – reach out to them and ask for help. We don’t mind providing reminders either!
You Gave Your Doctor Confusing Information
This is in the same arena as the mechanic story above. If you’re not clear about why you are seeing your doctor, they may not be clear about what you are needing.
Also, confusing statements that appear to contradict your claims occur very often in medical records. Consider the simple question, “how are you today?”
Do you even think before answering this question? Most people don’t – it’s become a salutation like, “hi” and “hey.” You probably get asked some variation of this question at least 4-5 times a day without giving it a second thought. Here’s the issue…
If you’re filing a claim for Social Security Disability, there is likely some aspect of your health that is not “fine” – “good” – or “grand.” And you need to be deliberate, honest, and accurate in answering that question and others like it when speaking to a doctor, or a judge.
Your Doctor Isn’t Necessarily an Expert in Your Ailments
We use terms like “doctor” or “lawyer” in generic ways. However, like lawyers, most doctors have specialties. For instance, a dermatologist has a different specialty than a neurologist. There’s a lot the two will have in common, including a great understanding of medicine. However, one is far more prepared to give testimony on skin issues whereas another is better for brain issues.
A general practice physician may not be able to provide enough information to declare the limits of your abilities or disabilities if they’re very specific. Ideally, a specialist can provide a more thorough diagnosis and prognosis. If your only medical testimony is from a doctor who doesn’t specialize in your challenges, you may be reliant upon the judgment of an adjudicator at the SSA.
On That Note…
You probably want to work with someone who knows disability and disability law if you’re in a situation where you have already been denied benefits. A social security lawyer is different than a family law lawyer, or a tax lawyer, etc. In this manner, a social security lawyer in Spokane is different than one halfway across the country! If you’re going to consult a lawyer, make sure they have experience in Social Security Law, and that they are actuallylocated nearby.