Even at the initial claim and reconsideration levels, a disability attorney or nonlawyer representative can often improve the chances of winning your SSD or SSI case. If you can find a disability lawyer to take your case at the beginning, the lawyer will file all of your paperwork, ensure that deadlines are not missed, and provide medical record updates to the Social Security office, or directly to the DDS examiner who has been assigned to review the case.
But once you get to an appeal hearing, having a lawyer or representative can really tip the scales in your favor. Why does having legal representation help? Because the regulations that govern the Social Security Administration's disability program are complex enough that the average person will simply not know how to prepare their Social Security disability case properly for a hearing. Disability lawyers are very famililar with what evidence wins and loses cases and they know how particular judges work. They will fully develop your case before going into a hearing so that they are prepared to ask the vocational expert the right questions and you are prepared to give the right answers when the judge questions you. Nonattorney representatives are often former DDS examiners and Social Security claims representatives, and they know what is important in winning a case as well. For more information on the importance of legal representation at hearings, see our article on how lawyers help win appeal hearings.
Sometimes lawyers can help you win your case without even waiting for a hearing. In what's called an on-the-record (OTR) review, a hearing officer at Social Security's ODAR can review decide a disability claim in your favor if there's enough evidence in your file. But Social Security can't negotiate any issues in an OTR review (such as the date of onset of disability) unless you have a attorney. For more information, see our article on OTR decisions.
To learn more about disability lawyers in general, your odds of winning with representation, how you can win more backpay, and how to find a disability lawyer, see our article on whether you should hire a disability lawyer and how.