With the closure of Craig Swapp’s Disability Department, we know many claimants may be wondering what to do now or where to turn. Below you can find 7 questions you should ask yourself before hiring a disability attorney–questions that will help you know what you should be looking for in a Utah disability law firm.
When it comes to applying for Social Security benefits, you may be asking yourself: why do I need a lawyer? Will a lawyer really make a difference when I file for benefits?
The simple answer is absolutely. A lawyer can make all the difference when it comes to receiving Social Security benefits and reducing your stress and frustration.
People who are represented by a lawyer in their disability case are much more likely to receive benefits. In fact, the Social Security Disability Resource Center estimates that claimants with an attorney are 50% more likely to receive benefits at a disability hearing. Considering that two out of every three people who apply for benefits are initially denied, it’s important for you to do everything you can to increase your odds and do things right the first time around.
In short, hiring a disability lawyers can:
- Increase your chances of receiving benefits
- Increase the back pay you receive on your benefits
- Work with your doctors to make sure your medical records show everything the SSA needs
- Help you navigate confusing Social Security paperwork
- Be your advocate and help the SSA understand your situation
- Simplify and streamline your application process
- Provide you with forms that could be essential to winning your benefits
Once you’ve established that hiring a disability lawyer is a good idea, what’s next? How do you know what lawyer to hire?
Here’s a list of seven essential questions you should ask yourself before hiring a disability lawyer.
1. Do you feel comfortable with your attorney and can you talk to him or her easily?
The Social Security Administration estimates that it takes about 3 to 5 months to make a decision about your case, and that’s only after they receive all of your paperwork and medical records. On top of that, most people (nearly 70%) are denied after they submit their initial application simply because the SSA does not have enough information to understand their situation.
That means you will need to fill out a reconsideration request and more paperwork, and possibly even apply for a trial. When all is said and done, you could spend anywhere from 3 to 30 months working with your lawyer to get your benefits.
Because of this, it is essential to find a lawyer who you feel comfortable with, someone you can talk to about your past experience and current limitations. Open communication is the best way to ensure both you and your lawyer understand everything that is needed for you to receive your benefits. Be honest and look for a lawyer who communicates regularly and continually updates you about the status of your claim.
2. Does your attorney understand you and your situation? Will he or she be able to tell your story?
The reason over two-thirds of applicants are denied during the first round is because the SSA has very strict guidelines for those who can receive benefits. Unfortunately, there are some people who try to abuse the system—that’s why the SSA requires you to fill out so many complicated forms and provide medical evidence of your disability.
But forms often can’t give the SSA a full picture of your disability, your situation, and your limitations. That’s where an attorney can help. A disability lawyer understands what the SSA is looking for and can help you explain your situation.
Along with taking time and communication, winning your disability benefits requires you to trust your lawyer with your story. It also requires a lawyer who is compassionate and understanding of your situation.
3. Can your lawyer give you the personal attention your case needs?
All of the things that go into creating a successful disability claim—paperwork, obtaining medical records, compassion, understanding, communication—require time. Though some lawyers may have years of experience, many run their practice like a mill that tries to push as many claims through in a day as possible.
When you are looking into hiring a lawyer, make sure you find one who is committed to your case—one who is willing to give you and your case the time and the attention they deserve.
4. Does your lawyer specialize in disability law?
Social Security is complex and time consuming. It’s no place to merely dabble. You might know a lawyer you like and trust, but if that lawyer does not have a focus on disability law, he or she could overlook important forms or make small mistakes that could have a big toll in the long-run.
When looking to hire a lawyer, find someone whose primary focus in disability law, someone who works with cases like yours on a daily basis. When it comes to navigating the Social Security system, experience is absolutely crucial to improving your chances of receiving benefits and speeding up the process.
5. Can your attorney educate your doctors on what the SSA is looking for in your records?
An attorney can help by not only letting you know what the SSA expects from you, but by also explaining to your doctor what the SSA needs from them.
Though your medical records may be volumes thick, all doctors have their own way of making notes. While these might be enough to help your doctor understand your condition, they don’t always provide the information that the SSA needs to determine whether or not you can hold a job. Information like how long can you sit at a desk and how much can you lift?
When hiring an attorney, look for one who will work one-on-one with your doctor to make sure your medical records have what the SSA needs to approve your claim.
6. Does your attorney have the forms you need to win your case?
Even when improved, sometimes medical records can’t give enough detail about your day-to-day limitations to prove to the SSA that you are unable to work. Your medical records can only tell your story from one point of view—that of your doctor.
That is where a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form comes in handy. This is a questionnaire for your doctor to fill out that gives a more complete view of your disability. It provides clear and objective proof of your limitations, for example your ability to sit or stand for long periods of time.
The RFC form is something the SSA won’t tell you about. It is also something many doctors don’t even know about. That is why having the knowledge of an attorney who works with Social Security disability can make all the difference in your case.
7. Will your attorney be able to prepare you and your case for a hearing?
You might be wondering why you would need a lawyer who has experience with hearings for a disability case. Aren’t you just supposed to be filling out paperwork and submitting an application?
Yes—initially. However, most people (67%) have their application denied the first time around. Of those that reapply, nearly nine out of ten are denied again. Why? Because paperwork simply can’t capture each person’s situation, work experience, and limitations.
But there is a way to tell your full story, and that’s by applying for a hearing before a judge. Unlike hearings you see on the movies, this is not a heated interrogation. This is simply a time set aside for you to explain your situation to the judge—to tell your full story. That’s why the denial rate for claims at this stage drops significantly, to only 34%.
Look for an attorney who has experience with hearings, who will adequately prepare you and explain the process to you so that you have no worries or questions going into your hearing.
What Sets Summit Disability Law Group Apart
Qualifying for Social Security benefits on your own can be extremely difficult and frustrating, especially if you do not know what the Social Security Administration expects from your application.
You and your case deserve better than that. You have earned these benefits and deserve the help of an attorney who works with Social Security cases every day. Here at the Summit Disability Law Group, we specialize in Social Security law and have helped hundreds of clients receive Social Security disability benefits.
We can help you know whether your case will qualify and help you through every step of the application process. In fact, we would love to meet with you for a free consultation to answer any questions you might have and to see if our firm is a right fit for your case.
Here are just a few things that set the Summit Disability Law Group apart:
- We don’t take every case that comes to us. You are going through a difficult time and need the help of an attorney who can give your case the time it needs. Instead of taking hundreds of cases and letting new attorneys or legal assistants manage your case, we take fewer cases so that we can personally oversee every part of your case–from meeting doctors to helping you fill out forms. Creating and maintaining relationships is important to us.
- We make it a priority to provide outstanding service and zealous representation. We took your case for a reason–we believe you deserve SSDI benefits and we will do everything in our power to make sure you get them. We understand the claims process can be emotionally and mentally draining. Because of that, we want to be there for you to answer your questions and give you the attention you deserve.
- We explain our fees up front and in plain English. Our policy is that if you don’t get benefits, we don’t get paid. That is another reason we dedicate ourselves to each case we handle. If you do receive SSDI benefits, our fee is 25 percent of your past-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less.
- We will work with your doctors. Many doctors do not have much experience with Social Security disability, so it can be hard for them to understand what the SSA expects from them. We will take the time to personally work with you and your doctors to make sure your medical records and forms have everything the SSA needs to process your claim.
- We feel developing a connection with our clients it vital to understanding their problem. Our firm does not delegate case tasks to other individuals. We handle the details ourselves to make sure nothing gets missed. We also make a point to stay in touch, return your phone calls as soon as possible, and communicate regularly.
At the Summit Disability Law Group, we can guarantee these things because we’re different. We make it our mission to be advocates for people who need need help receiving the Social Security benefits they have earned. If you need help or need answers about Social Security disability, give us a call at (801)890-1030.