When I meet with potential clients, I sometimes hear the question “why do I need a lawyer? I have paid into the Social Security system for years – why should I have to pay a lawyer to get my money back out?”
This is a perfectly reasonable question and I do not take offense at it. No one likes to pay legal fees, especially when it comes to recovering government benefits based on a disability. You have enough problems when you cannot work, including paying bills, coordinating medical appointments, helping your family adjust, planning for an uncertain future – dealing with lawyers and a lot of confusing paperwork is the last thing that you need in your life.
I wish I could report to you that the Social Security system works efficiently. In a few cases it does work well – about 10% of claims filed are approved quickly and with a minimum of fuss. But for the rest of us, the Social Security disability process will be a fight and a hassle because you have to prove to Social Security that you are “disabled,” and because you will face months or sometimes years of delay as your case winds its way through the system.
Why do you need a lawyer? My simple answer:
- to make sure that you recover all the benefits for which you are eligible
- to make sure that the medical and vocational records needed by Social Security to make a decision are updated
- to have an advocate by your side who speaks Social Security’s language and who understands the terms and “buzz words” that Social Security personnel use
- to gain the benefit of a representative who knows the likes and dislikes of the judges and expert witnesses that you will face
How to Pay for an Experienced Disability Lawyer
The next question I get – “I would like to hire an experienced lawyer like you, but I don’t have the money to pay for an attorney. What am I supposed to do?”
Here, too, there is a simple answer:
I accept Social Security disability cases under a contingency fee contract. My fee contract provides that there is no fee unless we recover past due benefits for you. The fee for my representation is 25% of past due benefits with a cap of $6,000. Since many of the cases I win for clients involve past due benefits in excess of $24,000, my fee often ends up totaling less than 25%.
I’d like to think that you are getting a pretty good deal if you become one of my clients. You will gain the advice and counsel of a lawyer with over 20 years’ worth of experience and lots of satisfied clients, a lawyer who has written two books about Social Security Disability, the publisher of a Social Security disability blog, the host of a Social Security disability podcast, the Social Security disability instructor at Solo Practice University, and my mom’s favorite son (full disclosure: I am an only child).
Still not convinced? Here are some specifics about what I can do to help my clients:
Recover All Available Benefits
I can make sure that you have applied for all disability programs for which you are eligible. For example, I have seen claimants whose Disability applications were not processed by Social Security, or whose applications were lost. In several cases, I have been able to argue that the mere evidence of a communication with Social Security is enough to prove that an application was filed, thereby preserving my client’s rights.
Rebuild Your Claim File if it is Lost by SSA
If Social Security loses your claims file, I can preserve your filing dates and help rebuild the file with the documents in my file. My staff and I are aware of what should be happening with your case, so we can often spot a problem before Social Security recognizes that something is amiss.
Reopen Old Applications to Recover Extra Months of Past Due Benefits
As your lawyer, I can determine if you are eligible to “reopen” old applications. In some cases, a prior application, even one filed three or four years earlier, can be reopened, thereby making you eligible for years of back benefits. If you ever filed an old application, or even if you simply called Social Security to inquire about benefits, you could lose thousands of dollars if you fail to look into reopening an old application. There are specific rules that govern reopening an old case and you have to request this action if your want to maximize your financial recovery.
Develop a Winning Strategy Specific to Your Case
I can also evaluate your case and suggest a strategy to win your case. After handling hundreds of cases, I have a fairly good perspective as to what cases are winnable and what cases are not, and what it takes to win a case. While my opinion is not a determination of how your case will end up, I can offer you the benefit of my experience. More importantly, if you decide to hire me, I will make sure that your case file is up-to-date with all medical records. In addition, I will work with your doctors to “translate” your medical problems into work limitations so that Social Security can evaluate your claim properly.
Present Your Case Effectively to the Judge Assigned to Your Case
If your case ends up before a judge, I will present a well-reasoned, solid argument on your behalf. I will also make sure that your claims file is up to date. My experience has been that claimants appearing before a judge without representation usually have a difficult time presenting their case – if you are end up waiting two or more years for your day in court, you may want to strongly consider the idea of proceeding with representation.
Further, because I appear before Social Security judges in the various local hearing offices, I have experience with almost all of them, even the judges that appear by video from the national video hearing center. The Social Security disability judges I see in the various Georgia hearing offices I visit all have different hearing styles. Your judge may be friendly, or he may be impersonal and businesslike. Your judge may ask a lot of questions or he may direct me to ask most of the questions. Your judge may want an opening statement or a pre-hearing brief, or he may not. Your judge may be very unlikely to approve your case without specific evidence or he may be very liberal in his interpretation of the law. Preparing your for the judge who will be hearing your case may be the most beneficial aspect of what I do for my clients.