To receive benefits under the Social Security disability and SSI programs, you must have physical or mental health problems (or a combination of problems) severe enough to keep you from working in any regular, paying job for at least 12 months. The test is not whether you can go back to your old job. The test is whether you are capable of doing jobs that exist in the national economy in significant numbers.
What is a hearing?
The hearing, which must be requested within 60 days of receiving your denial notice, is the crucial step of the appeal process where you will have the best chance of winning. More than half of all hearings result in the claimant receiving benefits. At present, the Social Security Administration takes as long as 2 years to schedule your hearing date.
An administrative law judge will preside. Although testimony is taken under oath, the hearing is informal. Strict rules of evidence do not apply.
Medical records will be accepted as evidence. The judge or your attorney will ask you about your medical condition, medical history, abilities, education, training, work experience and the limitations caused by your disability. You or your attorney has the right to ask questions, present evidence, and make a closing statement that you are entitled to benefits under social security regulations.
Do I need an attorney to represent me in my SSI/SSDI disability case?
There are important considerations when deciding whether to obtain an attorney to represent you in a disability proceeding with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Most first-time Social Security Disability applicants are turned down. We always ask our clients to remember that just because a doctor says you are disabled, does not mean the SSA will find you disabled.
Qualifying for and receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be a complicated process. The law and more specifically the law governing social security regulations is a maze of laws and regulations as well as difficult to understand procedures.
This is meant to be a guide to helping you answer some important questions regarding your decisions surrounding your SSI/SSDI case. Although the informality of the hearing makes it possible for some claimants to represent themselves, statistics have shown that people represented by attorneys are successful more often than people without attorney representation. Whether you hire an attorney is entirely up to you; but you should consider what an attorney would do in your case.
What would my attorney do to represent me in my disability case?
Every case is different. Your attorney’s role depends on the particular facts of your case. Make a list of all of your doctors that you have treated with for your disabling conditions. List their names with complete mailing addresses and phone numbers, your attorney will need this information. A few of the things an attorney may do are:
- Gather medical and other evidence.
- Analyze your case under social security regulations.
- Contact your doctor and explain social security regulations to obtain a report consistent with those regulations.
- Refer you to additional doctors (usually specialists) for further medical reports to answer questions raised by social security regulations.
- Send you to a vocational expert for a report on your ability to work.
- Suggest that the Social Security Administration send you to a doctor for a consultative examination.
- Obtain documents from your social security file.
- Review actions taken by the Social Security Administration.
- Ask that a prior application for benefits be reopened.
- Seek waiver of a time limit.
- Request subpoenas to insure the presence of crucial witnesses or documents at your hearing.
- Advise you how best to prepare yourself to testify at your hearing.
- Protect your right to a fair hearing by objecting to improper evidence and procedures.
- Cross-examine adverse witnesses at your hearing.
- Present a closing statement at your hearing arguing that you are entitled to benefits under social security regulations.
- Submit a written summary of the evidence and argument to the administrative law judge.
- Review, suggest changes or make legal objections to written questions, which are sometimes sent to a doctor by the administrative law judge after a hearing requesting an additional medical opinion.
- If you win, make sure that the Social Security Administration correctly calculates your benefits.
- If you lose, request review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council.
- If necessary, represent you in a federal court review of your case.
How much does an attorney cost?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) must approve all fees charged by an attorney. The SSA also sets how much an attorney can charge. If you win at or below the hearing level, then the charge is 25% or $6,000, whichever is less. Most “big firms” then charge expenses on top of the 25%.
To pay the attorney, SSA will withhold the 25% from your past due benefits automatically to pay for the attorney fee. If you do not win or your claim does not have any past due benefits awarded, then the attorney gets no fee.
Why should I choose Social Security Justice?
Choosing a representative can be a difficult and confusing process. Here are a few examples of what sets Social Security Justice apart from the “big firms”:
- You meet and/or talk to your attorney immediately and not for the first time at the day of your hearing like at the “big firms.”
- In the Detroit Metropolitan area, Social Security Justice will come to you for the intake.
- Social Security Justice waives most expenses (i.e. medical records, copying charges); expenses are something the “big firms” charge hundreds of dollars for on top of their fee.
- A case advocate is assigned to every case and is available to help with resources to get you through until your case is won.
- You are guaranteed that your phone call will be returned within 24 hours.
- You are guaranteed that you will be represented by an attorney.
- Social Security Justice is dedicated to getting you the benefits you deserve as quickly as possible!