There are many advantages to having an attorney represent you during the Social Security Disability application and appeals process. There are several ways that having a disability attorney represent you might speed up the process. While there is no fast-track for individuals who are represented by an attorney, attorneys know a few things that might be able to get a decision on your claim faster.
Getting You Approved on the First Round
The fastest way to receive benefits is to receive approval based on your original application for Social Security disability benefits (rather than having to appeal the decision, which can take more than a year). An attorney or disability advocate's expertise in knowing what Social Security is looking for can help to increase your chances of winning at the initial application process. If you can find an attorney to represent you at this stage, the lawyer can:
- fill out your application so that it clearly demonstrates how you "meet a listing" (or equal a listing) or are not able to perform any work
- gather proper medical evidence to show that you have the medical impairments you claim to have
- request aid from your doctor in a way that will help your case. (Social Security looks for specific terminology; an attorney can make your physician aware of such terminology so that the doctor can use the terminology, if medically appropriate), and
- alert Social Security if yours is a terminal illness case, making it eligible for expedited treatment.
However, an attorney will likely only take your case at this early stage if he or she thinks you have a good chance of winning.
Getting You Approval in an OTR Decision
If your original application is denied, the next fastest way to receive benefits is to have an "on the record" (OTR) decision. A Social Security disability attorney can:
- write a clear and concise brief that meets the requirements set out by Social Security and presents arguments for why you should receive benefits
- gather any new medical records or try to obtain information from physicians to answer questions that may not be in your medical records but is requested by Social Security
- write a proposed decision that, if approved by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), saves time since you do not have to wait for the ALJ to write the decision, and
- speak to the Attorney Adjudicator to relay the specific merits of your case or to negotiate your disability onset date.
Getting You Approval at the ALJ Hearing Stage
If the OTR decision is denied, your case will then be sent to a hearing. If you are applying for SSI and you are in financial straights, an attorney can write a dire need letter for you, which can get your hearing date scheduled sooner.
At the hearing, a disability attorney can improve your chances of winning the appeal after the hearing, rather than having to go on to appeal to the Appeals Council. A disability lawyer can:
- prepare you to answer questions that may be presented to you at the hearing so that you can clearly relay the specifics of your medical impairments and limitations to the ALJ.
- work with you to choose witnesses to appear at the hearing and prepare the witnesses so that the witness provides the necessary information.
Learn more about how a disability lawyer can help you win your disability appeal.
While there are no magic ways by which to speed up your Social Security Disability benefits application, an attorney can help to increase your likelihood of being approved for benefits at the early stages, which will mean less time waiting to receive your benefits. You can use our disability lawyer locator to find a good attorney in your area.