Preparing to apply for Social Security disability benefits can be daunting and likely occurs when you’re already facing financial challenges. Making an appointment for a free consultation with a Social Security disability lawyer should be the first step to pursuing Social Security disability benefits. A Social Security disability lawyer can help you understand the current status of Social Security disability law, apply for benefits, and explore your options if your claim for Social Security disability benefits is denied.
Tips for Getting Started with Your Social Security Disability Benefits
In an initial consultation, a Social Security disability lawyer gathers information on your disability and circumstances. This can be the most important 30 to 60 minutes in the case—when the attorney considers the likelihood of success on the facts in your case and when you decide whether the attorney is the right fit for you.
The most important thing a Social Security disability lawyer needs is a clear picture of the basis for your disability application. Presenting that information clearly and completely will help the lawyer efficiently and accurately evaluate your claim for Social Security disability benefits.
What to Bring to the Initial Consultation with a Social Security Disability Lawyer
Whether you are a first-timer seeking to apply for benefits or someone whose claim for disability benefits has already been denied, your attorney will need certain basic background information. The faster you provide this information to your attorney, the faster the attorney can decide the merits of your case and the sooner you can move forward with your application for benefits.
Collect the following information and bring it with you to your initial consultation with the Social Security disability lawyer:
- Basic biographical information including your work history for the last 15 years with the physical requirements of each job;
- A complete list of the doctors, clinics, and hospitals that provided treatment for the condition(s) that have caused your disability, including the following:
- The contact information for each medical care provider;
- A description of the course of treatment; and
- A list of all medications included in that treatment.
- The names of any treating doctors who encouraged you to seek disability or who you think might support your claim; and
- All correspondence you’ve had with Social Security regarding your disability application.
If you have already filed for benefits, your attorney will also need the following:
- The date you applied for Social Security disability benefits;
- Whether you received a denial and, if so, a copy of the correspondence documenting the denial;
- Whether you asked for a reconsideration and, if so, copies of documentation regarding that request;
- Whether you requested a hearing before a Social Security Administrative Law Judge and, if so, documentation regarding that request; and
- The deadline for appealing the latest Social Security decision on your application—usually 30 to 60 days from the most recent denial.
Hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer to Move Your Claim Forward
If your attorney has a good feel for the case and decides to take it, and if you feel that he or she is the right attorney for your case, the next step is to formally hire the attorney. To establish an attorney-client relationship, you will need to complete one or more of the following items:
- An attorney fee agreement;
- A representation form;
- A release for access to your medical records; and
- Any other necessary forms needed to start your benefits application or appeal.
The attorney’s fee is usually a contingent fee that you owe only in the event your application for benefits is successful. If your claim is successful, your attorney may receive 25 percent of your past-due benefits—benefits for the time period from when you first became unable to work due to your disability to the date you receive your award. Regardless of the size of a retroactive award, the maximum amount the attorney may charge for fees is $6,000.
When to Expect a Decision on Your Social Security Disability Case
After you hire your Social Security disability lawyer, he or she will proceed to gather the information required to submit a complete application for benefits with the nearest Social Security Field Office. Your case is more likely to be processed quickly if your application is complete and supported by credible documentation demonstrating your disability.
An attorney may provide estimated timelines of when the SSA will issue a decision, but they are just that—estimates. Applicants initially submit requests for benefits and supporting documentation to field offices, which transmit the documentation to reviewers and testing doctors at disability determination services. An application or appeal that does not contain sufficient information to support your request for benefits may require additional proceedings such as hearings, the development of additional evidence, and reviews. The time required for a decision on a Social Security disability application varies from case to case.
When the documentation in a case is insufficient to support the request for benefits, the applicant or the attorney may need to gather or develop additional evidence to support the claim. Depending on the severity of your impairment(s) and the strength of medical evidence, your attorney may be able to develop evidence by consulting with your treating physician and corresponding with the case workers at Social Security and Disability Determination Services.
In some cases, a hearing may be required. A hearing may be set two years away unless you meet the criteria for a dire needs request to expedite the hearing date. An applicant who does not have the financial means for food, medicine, or shelter may qualify for an expedited hearing date.
The SSA reviews claims for eligibility under “disability criteria.” The majority of applications are denied, but your application is much more likely to be successful with assistance from a Social Security disability lawyer who understands the evidence required to support a successful claim.
The SSA also reviews non-disability criteria such as the following:
- Have you paid in enough from your earnings over time or “quarters” to be eligible for Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits?
- Will you be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) by having few enough “resources” in the event you are not eligible for SSDI?
Seeking Social Security disability benefits can be complicated, but it is a lot easier with help from someone experienced in preparing applications, applying for disability compensation, and responding when applications are denied. A Social Security disability lawyer from Camden & Meridew can help you maneuver through the process. To talk with us about your Social Security disability benefits claim, call us at 317-770-0000 or use our online contact form.