Representing Yourself in a Disability Hearing: Is it Smart?

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Hiring an experienced disability lawyer can be extremely helpful in receiving disability benefits, but it is not completely necessary. You have the option of representing yourself in a disability hearing. This may be the best choice for you if you thoroughly understand the legal process surrounding Social Security disability benefits.

While it may be the best choice in some situations, representing yourself can be a daunting challenge. A disability lawyer can save you from hours of stressful and confusing work preparing your case.

Representing Yourself in a Disability Hearing: When is it Possible?

You can enlist the help of a lawyer or decide to go it alone at any point in the claims process. However, this decision is most important in the case of an appeal.

Social Security applicants usually make the decision to hire a disability lawyer in preparation for an appeal. The Social Security Administration denied their initial application, so they wish to strengthen their argument. Appeal hearings take place before a judge and feature complex legal procedures and policies, such as

  • Evaluations of medical records
  • Doctors’ opinions on your case
  • Expert opinions on your work ability
    • These may point out weaknesses or inconsistencies in your case.
  • Legal documents and arguments
    • Prehearing brief

What is a Prehearing Brief?

A prehearing brief is a letter to the judge hearing your case. If you are representing yourself in a disability hearing, you will need to write this letter yourself. Otherwise, a disability lawyer can help. An effective prehearing brief introduces yourself and your unique case, and the details of your condition. It should follow this general outline:

  • Introduction
    • Since this is a letter, start by introducing yourself. Give personal information and identify your case by your application and hearing date.
  • Summary
    • Next, you should discuss how your condition limits your ability to work and live comfortably. If you can demonstrate that your disability prevents you from working, your chances of winning a case will increase dramatically.
  • Qualifications
    • You will need to provide medical evidence of your disability. In addition, a successful brief will give a detailed description of how  your condition meets specific Social Security requirements.
  • Defense
    • As mentioned before, experts may point out weaknesses in your case during a disability hearing. You can help yourself by acknowledging and explaining these weaknesses in your prehearing brief.
  • Conclude
    • You should end by highlighting any particularly important points in your case.

If you are confident that you can write an effective prehearing brief, then representing yourself  in a disability hearing may be the right decision. However, hiring an experienced disability lawyer to help can improve your chances of winning.

Hiring a Lawyer vs. Representing Yourself

About 20% of disability cases are successful on the first try, and only a handful of denials get overturned. An experienced disability lawyer can help get you what you deserve.

At Summit Disability Law Group, we understand how disability hearings work. We can help you write an effective prehearing brief, collect the right documents and information, and ask the best questions. Most importantly, we can help you win your case. If you are worried about costs, don’t let that keep you from building your best case. We strive to provide affordable representation, and you won’t pay us anything unless we win your case.

If you have any questions about your case or need help with an application, let us know. We will do all we can to help.

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