Can a Social Security Disability Attorney or Advocate Speed Up a Case?

Having an experienced attorney or disability advocate handle your Social Security case may help to speed up the very long process.

By , Contributing Author
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Having an attorney or advocate represent you during the Social Security disability application and appeals process might speed up the process. While there is no fast track for individuals who are represented by professionals, attorneys and advocates know a few things that might be able to get a decision on your claim faster.

Getting You Approved at the Initial Application Stage

The fastest way to receive benefits is to get approval from Social Security based on your original application for disability benefits (rather than having to appeal the decision, which can take more than a year). When you have an attorney or disability advocate's expertise in knowing what Social Security is looking for, you have a better chance of winning benefits during the initial application process.

If you can find an expert to represent you at this stage, the lawyer or advocate 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. (An expert can make your physician aware of the terminology Social Security is looking for so that the doctor can use the proper terms), and
  • alert Social Security if yours is a terminal illness case, making it eligible for expedited treatment.

Without help, applicants often make mistakes that are hard to correct, from overestimating what they can still do to overstating past job skills.

An attorney or advocate, however, will likely only take your case at this early stage if they think you have a good chance of winning.

Getting You Approved 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. An attorney who specializes in Social Security disability 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.

(Learn more about why you need to hire a disability lawyer to handle an OTR decision.)

Getting a Faster Hearing Date

If the OTR decision is denied, or you don't file one, you can request that your case be sent to a hearing. If you're applying for SSI and you're in financial straits, an attorney can write a "dire need letter" for you, which can get your hearing date scheduled sooner.

Getting Approval at the ALJ Hearing Stage

At the hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ), a disability attorney can improve your chances of winning the appeal, rather than having to go on to appeal to the Appeals Council. A disability lawyer can:

  • prepare you to answer questions that the ALJ may ask you at the hearing. This will help you 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.

Is Getting an Expert's Help Worth It?

While there are a few magic ways to speed up your Social Security disability application, an attorney or advocate can help increase your likelihood of being approved for benefits at each stage, which means less time waiting to receive your benefits.

Government studies actually show that disability applicants who have expert help double their chances of getting benefits (GAO Report 18-37).

Attorneys and advocates collect a one-time fee, only if you win benefits, and it can't be any more than 25% of the backpay you receive from Social Security. According to a survey we took of our readers, the average fee that Social Security paid to disability lawyers was $3,750. For many people, it's worth using part of their backpay to help ensure they get benefits, and in a timely way.

Updated January 11, 2022

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