1. Health

Choosing a Social Security Disability Representative

Reasons to Use an Advocate or Lawyer

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Updated November 26, 2011

Choosing a Social Security Disability Representative

Tessa Walker, founder and President of CH Consulting

A social security disability attorney or disability advocate who specializes in social security disability claims can help you apply for Social Security Disability benefits. The representative you choose does not have to be a lawyer. You and your chosen representative must sign a statement naming your representative. The disability attorney or disability advocate you choose must sign and forward the "Appointment of Representative" form to your local Social Security field office. You can obtain this form from the social security website at www.ssa.gov or call the Social Security Administration and ask for Form SSA-1696. Your disability attorney may already have a copy of this form in his/her office for you to complete. You can ask a representative at your local Social Security field office for a list of acceptable legal referral services, legal service organizations and community organizations in your area that may provide attorney and non-attorney representation for social security disability claims.

Filing for Social Security Disability can be a frustrating process. Hiring a representative may relieve some of the burden of navigating the disability process on your own. If you have a debilitating condition, memory loss or a mental impairment which prevents you from understanding and coping with the process you may want to seek representation when filing for Social Security Disability benefits.

If you have no support system from family and friends, you may want to obtain representation from a disability attorney or disability advocate. It is solely up to you as an individual as to which stage of the disability process that you choose to hire a representative for your claim. If your disability claim is denied at the initial level, the next step in the process is the reconsideration level. While you can enlist the help of a disability attorney or disability advocate at the initial level, most people enlist the help of a social security disability attorney at the reconsideration level once they are denied at the initial level.

You should consider obtaining representation when appealing your disability claim at the hearing, appeals council, and federal court levels. It may be in your best interest to have the proper legal representation to dispute the legal, medical, and vocational issues for your disability claim at those levels of the appeals process.

Factors to consider when choosing representation for your disability claim:

  • A representative who is reliable and skilled in social security disability claims.

  • A representative who will assist you with completing and submitting disability forms for your claim.

  • A representative who will follow up periodically with your disability examiner and update you on the status of your disability claim. The representative should submit any relevant medical and non-medical evidence to social security on behalf of your claim.

  • Who will handle your disability claim, an attorney, paralegal, or support staff? What are the years of experience of the staff handling social security disability claims? You may want to do some research and find out how other clients rated the services of the firm or representative. Choose a representative who is detailed, organized and able to utilize resources and experts to build a strong case for you in the appeals process.

  • How many claims have the representative handled that was similar to your disability? Your representative should be familiar with the criteria for your specific disability and is able to obtain and evaluate medical and non-medical evidence to develop a strategy to win your disability claim.

  • Attorney fees are set by Social Security, the maximum allowed is $6000. You only pay if you are awarded disability benefits. If you are awarded disability benefits, you pay 25% of the back benefits owed to you or your family; or the maximum amount, $6,000. In simpler terms, you only pay 25% or $6000 whichever is less, if you win your disability claim. Keep in mind that you may have to directly pay your representative for other fees for obtaining medical records, printing, administrative fees, etc. During consultation, check with the disability attorney for a list of fees you may be responsible for out of pocket.

These are just some key areas to consider during the consultation with a prospective Social Security Disability attorney or disability advocate. While there may be no guarantee that you will win your disability claim, consider hiring a Social Security Disability representative that will guarantee you the best representation for your disability claim.

Tessa Walker is the founder and President of CH Consulting. CH Consulting provides free resources, services and guidance to individuals with disabilities and disability advocates. She earned a Master of Science in Human Services Administration from The University of Baltimore and a bachelor’s in psychology from Towson University. Her passion is helping to spread disability awareness to the public. Where there is a will, there is a way. Ms. Walker’s passion to help others is the “will.” Sharing knowledge is the “way” to educate the public.

Follow Tessa Walker on Twitter: @chconsultingllc

Website: CH Consulting LLC

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