If you’ve filed or will file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability lawyers can prove an invaluable resource in winning your claim.
Unfortunately, the majority of disability claimants—nearly two thirds of those who apply—are initially denied their benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
However, being denied at this initial stage doesn’t spell the end for your claim. Rather, it’s often just the beginning. Should you be denied benefits after an initial evaluation, you may seek multiple levels of appeal.
Needless to say, your claim can take anywhere from months to years to resolve and includes many steps along the way that can impact the outcome.
Social Security Disability lawyers are legal professionals who specialize in cases just like yours. Consulting disability attorneys can mean having trained and experienced advocates assist and advise you each step of the way.
Statistics show that those who hire a disability attorney are more likely to win their claim.
When deciding whether to consult an attorney to assist with your claim, you likely have many questions. Let’s take a closer look at how Social Security disability lawyers can help maximize the chances of winning your benefits.
Table of Contents [add anchor links]:
1. SSDI or SSI?
2. How Much Do Social Security Disability Lawyers Charge?
3. What Is a Case Evaluation?
4. When Should I Consult Social Security Disability Lawyers?
5. What Else Should I Consider When Hiring an Attorney?
SSDI or SSI?
Knowing which type of claim you’re filing and the basics of each can help you better communicate about your case with an attorney.
For both SSDI and SSI, the medical evidence you’ll provide to prove your disability is the same.
However, which program you apply for will depend on factors such as your income, how many work credits you’ve earned from being employed over the years, and more.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI is an earned benefit. You can acquire up to four work credits, or quarters, per year by paying into Social Security when you work. To qualify, generally you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is a means-tested program for people 65 or older, or blind or disabled at any age, and who have limited income and resources. Typically, you must not exceed a monthly income considered Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).
A qualified attorney can advise you in detail on the requirements of each program and how best to proceed.
How Much Do Social Security Disability Lawyers Charge?
Attorney fees and other costs may cause you to hesitate to consult with a lawyer. Understandably, for many situations, hiring a private attorney can seem cost-prohibitive.
Yet Social Security Disability lawyers normally do not charge up-front attorney fees—and won’t charge you these fees unless you win your claim.
Note: This should not be confused with being offered pro bono, or free, legal services. However, it’s still worthwhile to consult a disability lawyer as early as possible, since there’s a tremendous benefit to doing so with little to no risk.
Lawyers usually receive up to 25%, but no more than $6,000, from your initial disability check—called “back pay.” This rate is federally regulated and standard across the country.
As stated, you owe this fee only if you win your claim.
Depending on your initial disability check amount, attorneys typically receive the lowest possible amount. In most circumstances, this fee will not exceed $6,000.
Other potential costs may include obtaining medical record copies, postage, and other administrative costs. Your attorney will discuss these costs with you.
What Is a Case Evaluation?
Before choosing your lawyer, you must first schedule that initial meeting known as the case evaluation. An initial consultation about your Social Security disability case is usually free. This is a good time to interview lawyers and see if they’re a good fit for your case.
You may visit individual law firms’ websites contact pages, or else a Google search of Social Security disability lawyers near you may offer a list of firms to contact.
Alternatively, you can visit the Georgia Bar website to find lawyers specializing in Social Security disability.
Each attorney’s website should clarify the types of cases they represent, and you should focus on contacting those who specialize in Social Security disability law.
During your case evaluation, attorneys will go over the steps of your claim and what will be expected of you throughout.
Attorneys may also discuss a timeline with you. This will vary depending on your unique claim. On average, it takes three to five months for an initial decision, though this is just an average.
When you meet with an attorney, you should bring:
- Birth Certificate
- Proof of Citizenship
- U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you served before 1968
- W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year
- A concise summary of your illnesses, injuries or conditions, and your work history
- Medical evidence already in your possession. This includes medical records, doctors’ reports, and recent test results
- Award letters, pay stubs, settlement agreements or other proof of any temporary or permanent workers’ compensation-type benefits you received
- A list of questions to decide if the attorney is a good fit for your needs
When Should I Consult Social Security Disability Lawyers?
Ideally, you should consult a lawyer when you first file your SSDI or SSI claim for benefits. This gives your attorneys the information they need to maximize your chance of an approval at each stage of your claim.
However, you can consult an attorney at any point during your claim. For instance, if you are initially denied benefits, an attorney can advocate for you during the appeals process.
If you’re initially denied, you may have to appeal the decision. The different levels of appeal include reconsideration, requesting a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), requesting a review from the Appeals Council, or even taking the case to federal court.
An attorney can assist with any legal proceedings, including an appeals hearing before an ALJ. They can help you prepare for these hearings and even represent you during them. Their familiarity with local judges and their expectations may greatly aid you in securing your benefits during this stage of appeal.
Yet each of these stages can take anywhere from a month to years before you receive a decision, so it’s important that your attorney gives you a realistic timeline of your case.
What Else Should I Consider When Hiring an Attorney?
The right Social Security disability attorney will be suited to help with the unique nature of your claim, while also having the broader experience necessary to help Social Security disability clients win their benefits.
An initial consultation gives you the opportunity to decide whether an attorney fits your needs and expectations.
Your attorney should:
- Make you feel comfortable.
- Take the time to talk to you.
- Be able to inform you honestly about the process.
A few questions to ask an attorney are:
- What is your specific experience with Social Security disability law?
- What is your experience with my type of disability?
- What percentage of Social Security disability claims have you won for your clients?
- Will my attorney handle my claim or will they use case managers?
- Am I able to talk to my attorney directly when I have questions about my claim?
- When and how much will I pay in lawyers’ fees and other costs, if I win my claim?
Though we recommend you consult an attorney as early as possible, even before an initial denial, the right attorney can advocate for and assist you at any stage of your claim.
Having the right attorney in your corner can be a critical resource, giving you the best chance of winning your SSDI or SSI benefits. A case evaluation is an important first step toward a positive outcome.
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