The simple answer is no. You do not have to have an attorney to file a Social Security disability (SSD) claim. However, having hiring a Social Security disability lawyer to aid you in the application process could make the difference between a successful claim and an unsuccessful claim.
How can an attorney make a difference?
First, no attorney can guarantee a successful SSD claim; no one can predict the future and not everyone that applies for SSD benefits does so under the same circumstances. Social Security disability lawyers can best aid you in strategically developing your case based upon their experience with the SSD system and their knowledge of how it functions.
When is the best time to get an attorney?
The majority of first time SSD applicants are denied their initial claim. There is no real rhyme or reason behind the denials, first time claims are denied regardless of if the claimant has a lawyer or not. An attorney can help in the next step of the application process: The appeal.
What is a SSD appeal?
When you appeal a denial, a hearing will be set for you to appear before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). An attorney whose practice entails extensive SSD work is capable of developing your claim in a manner in which it is statistically likely to succeed. Your attorney should know based upon years of experience, what the ALJ will be looking for based upon your particular medical condition.
Additionally, an attorney could help you know what questions may be asked by the ALJ during the hearing. This knowledge comes from the attorney’s familiarity with the SSD process and having completed other successful applications.
How can I afford to hire a Social Security disability attorney?
Federal law caps the amount that a lawyer can charge for his services. Typically, the limit is the lesser amount of $6,000 or 25% of your SSD backpay. Some attorneys may charge you a small upfront fee to cover expenses such as copying, mailing, and various costs associated with filing. This money goes into the attorney’s trust account and is paid out as needed, only for costs associated with your account.
Backpay is the money owed to you which has yet to be paid due to your claim being denied. An experienced attorney may have the ability to get a claimant a more favorable “onset date”, resulting in a potentially larger payout to the claimant. The “onset date” is that date upon which the back pay should have commenced and determines the amount a claimant will receive.