How Do Disability Lawyers Work?

When filing for Disability Benefits through the Socials Security Administration, or SSA, it’s not always a guarantee that your application will be approved. Many times, legitimate disability claims can be denied for one reason or another, be it some kind of potential exclusion or a lack of supporting evidence that the condition makes you eligible to receive disability benefits. If you’re planning to apply for Disability Benefits from the SSA, or even just trying to claim compensation from an at fault party for medical treatment such as insurance companies after an auto accident, it may be in your best interest to seek out a disability attorney to assist you with the disability claim process.

Is a Disability Attorney Necessary?

Whether or not you retain a disability attorney really depends on the circumstances of your disability. The requirements for meeting disability seem fairly straightforward at first glance, but in some cases can be very hard to prove a solid claim for. In order to be considered disabled you must meet the following conditions:

-If you are working and earn over $1,220 per month, you are usually not considered disabled.

-The condition must interfere with basic work functions like lifting, standing, sitting, walking, remembering, etc. for at least 12 months.

-If the condition is not on the SSA list of medical conditions that are too severe to allow gainful activity, the condition must be reviewed to see if it is comparable to one on the list.

-You must not be able to do the work you had done prior to developing your condition.

-You must not be able to perform any other kind of work.

At a glance, this seems fairly self explanatory. If you have a condition on the SSA’s list, such as certain forms of epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or Parkinsons, a review of your condition and the severity of the condition’s persistence despite treatment and medication may be all it takes to get benefits. Even with a fairly clear cut disability, Jeffrey Preszler of says that because insurance companies will often reject legitimate claims, a long term disability lawyer is your best chance at receiving compensation. If your case isn’t so clear cut, the disability approval process can get a lot more complicated.

Other conditions where the extent of the condition or even the diagnosis of the condition in cases like with fibromyalgia can make proving your case for disability benefits extremely difficult. Unless you have a condition that clearly fits the SSA’s definition of being a disability, it would be a good idea to consider retaining a disability attorney.

Gathering Your Records

The first step in the process of retaining a disability attorney, as well as in preparing your case, is to gather your medical records. Having some of your medical records to help present your case may increase your chances of hiring a disability attorney, as most are instructed to only take on cases that have a high chance of success. Once you’ve retained an attorney, they will ask you to sign a medical privacy release. Signing this form is extremely important, as this is what allows your attorney to begin collecting evidence from your medical records to start building your case.

Case preparation includes getting copies of medical records showing the diagnosis, treatment, and progression of the disability, as well as allowing them to obtain statements from your doctors corroborating these records. Your lawyer may also suggest you undergo a consultative exam with either an SSA doctor or with another doctor on your own.

The lawyers also know the disability submission system fairly intimately, so they will be able to ensure that the disability application is being submitted properly as well as follow up to ensure the process is going smoothly. In the case of a denial, there are appeal hearings that you can request, which your lawyer will help you prepare for. After gathering more evidence, there are a few more steps that they will take prior to the hearing date.

The Pre-Hearing Meeting

Your lawyer will likely request you have a pre-hearing meeting with them prior to the hearing with the SSA to determine the eligibility of your benefits, or to determine if you were wrongfully denied. This meeting can be held either in person or over the phone. Your attorney will go over some basic questions you may be asked during the hearing, such as when you were first unable to work, describing the symptoms of your disability, and if you can walk up or down stairs carrying a gallon of milk.

Building a Theory and Finalizing Your Case

Before the hearing, your attorney will develop a theory as to why you are disabled. These theories basically hinge around how your disability falls into the criteria provided by the SSA for being eligible for disability benefits. These theories generally fall into one or more of the following categories:

-Your condition coincides with a disability listing on the SSA’s list of disabling conditions.
-You are unable to perform your previous job due to your condition.
-You can not perform any other work due to your condition, including sedentary or sit-down jobs.

Paying Your Lawyer

Your lawyer will only get paid on a successful case. If you do win, usually your lawyer’s fees come out of the back pay awarded to you, usually somewhere around 25% up to a hard cap, such as $6,000. for example, if you win %10,000 in back pay, your attorney would receive $2,500, but if you win $50,000 in back pay, your attorney would only receive the maximum their fees allow, for example $6,000.

Retaining a disability attorney is certainly the best way to ensure your application for disability is approved, or you win the appeals proceeding when looking to overturn a denied claim. They know their way around the disability application process and will be able to ensure you have the best case possible going into an appeals hearing. Remember, disability lawyers are instructed to only take cases that seem winnable, so if you are turned down by multiple attorneys, it’s possible you simply don’t qualify for disability benefits for one reason or another.