What many people don’t realize is that when filing a social security claim, you don’t have to go at it alone. In fact, your odds of winning your case are stronger when you choose to hire a social security lawyer who can navigate the ins and outs of the system. From answering all your questions to preparing any application materials on your behalf, your attorney will give you peace of mind.
What do Social Security Lawyers Do?
The short answer is that a social security lawyer deals with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and helps people receive the benefits they are entitled to. Social security lawyers typically represent Americans with disabilities.
Read on to learn more about what a social security lawyer can do for you.
History of the SSA
The Social Security Administration is a federal agency created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal plan, a piece of legislation that stimulated the American economy in the aftermath of the Great Depression.
The SSA exists to provide retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to eligible recipients. To qualify for these programs, most workers are taxed on their earnings; the recipient’s benefits are usually proportional to their contributions. You likely will not be able to receive any benefits if you never paid into social security. If you do qualify, however, you might be eligible to receive monthly checks to cover your expenses.
Preparing an SSA Case
While you are not required to hire a lawyer to handle our social security claims, it is statistically proven that having legal representation improves your outcomes. Most people prefer not to deal with all bureaucracy and red tape of the SSA and hire competent attorneys instead. They can act as a middleman so that you can enjoy peace of mind.
The services that a social security lawyer provides vary and can be broad in scope, but they usually stick to the program outlined below.
During your first meeting with a social security lawyer, he or she will likely conduct what is called an intake interview. This is where the lawyer collects all the facts of your case and determines whether or not you have a legally-recognized claim; in other words, it is at this meeting that your attorney will determine whether or not you have a plausible case or not.
Regardless of what happens during your first meeting, don’t forget that you can always consult a second opinion: sometimes one lawyer will tell you that your case is not strong, only for a different lawyer to tell you otherwise. However, you should be wary of lawyers who make big promises and deliver little to no results.
Filing an Application
After your initial meeting with an attorney, they should be ready to help prepare any social security applications. This will include gathering supporting documents and other relevant information. As always, you should be very collaborative and open to answering any helpful questions.
Filing out a social security application is one of the easiest things to do at the same time that it can be convoluting and difficult. In fact, the SSA will often reject an application because of small mistakes such as a misspelled name or a mismatched ZIP code. As such, having an attorney who diligently checks their work and is familiar with all the SSA paperwork can make all the difference between a successful and a failed social security claim.
Collecting and Preparing Medical Evidence
Social security claims typically rely on medical evidence. A seasoned social security lawyer will know what to collect from your doctor, as well as how to angle your claim. You can usually take a backseat once you sign a medical release form and let your lawyer access your medical records.
A good social security lawyer will know what information to ignore and what additional documents to request from your primary care physician. They sometimes request additional tests they anticipate the SSA will request, as well as medical opinions from specialty providers. It is precisely because of their insight and ability to foretell the application process that social security lawyers are worth the investment.
Dealing with the SSA
Unlike the general public, a social security lawyer is well aware of the most important deadlines concerning your application. They also know what to do in the event the SSA requests additional information or documents, something that can often confuse and intimate people handling their own cases.
Responding to SSA Appeals
Not every SSA case will get initially approved. Not all is lost, however, as you can usually appeal the decision and have another chance at proving your claim. But because the process can be lengthy and confusing, you’re better off hiring a lawyer who can represent you at every step of the way.
SSA rejections are certainly one of the most difficult challenges to navigate. For experienced attorneys who navigate those situations often, the process is relatively easy and straightforward. They will know what additional materials to collect from you as well as what other documents to request from medical providers and other relevant people.
Legal Representation at SSA Hearings
Many social security benefits usually get hailed to special hearings in front of a judge, especially if their disability claim was initially rejected. This may sound daunting and intimidating, but having a social security lawyer by your side can make the process easier and less complicated.
At an SSA hearing, you as the applicant will still be required to speak. However, your attorney will likely have already prepared you for any questions thrown your way, usually by running a mock interview with you ahead of your hearing.
At the end of your hearing, your attorney will also be able to mention any information you forget to cover and that he or she believes is indispensable to your case. This can oftentimes make or break a decision, and clients are usually glad to have retained legal representation.
In the event that it becomes necessary to your case, your attorney can also organize witnesses on your behalf and prepare them for any hearings or other events where they might be asked to speak.
Paying for a Social Security Lawyer
There are several nonprofits that can provide you with legal representation free of charge.
Most people, however, hire private lawyers on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if they win your case. This can be a good way of encouraging your attorney to work hard and diligently to advance your interests. The SSA will usually pay your attorney directly, though you might be responsible for some minor expenditures such as filing fees.
Where to Find a Social Security Lawyer
Chances are some of your friends or acquaintances know someone who has benefitted from the work of a social security lawyer. You should check in with people in your circle to see if you can find an attorney — word of mouth can be great in these types of situations.
We highly recommend checking out Lawyer.com, where you can get a free consultation from a reputable social security lawyer in your area.
After you find an attorney, he or she will help you notify the SSA of their appointment as your legal representative, You are legally mandated to notify the SSA, in writing, of who you attorney is. The process is easy and it usually consists of filing Form SSA-1696-U4, which you can find on the SSA website.
Starting in April 13, 2018, you are now eligible to designate a representative who can manage your benefits and legal representation in the event that you can no longer make your own decisions. You can make the appointment both before and after you start collecting benefits.
Contacting Social Security
Your attorney should be managing any and all communication with the SSA. If, however, you need to reach out for whatever reason, the best way to do so is by visiting www.ssa.gov and creating a personal my social security account. You can also call at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 if you are hard of hearing or deaf.