Seven Ways a Local Attorney Can Help Your SSD Case
You are not required to be represented by a local attorney when you seek Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. You can pursue disability benefits on your own or get help from a non-attorney advocate.
However, at Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., we believe there are many important reasons why you should have a local attorney handle your SSD case while you focus on your health and your family.
The following are seven ways that a skilled and experienced upstate South Carolina lawyer could benefit you as you seek the disability benefits that you and your family need:
1. An attorney can make sure your application is accurate and complete.
About two-thirds of SSD applications are initially denied. You can reduce your chances of being among those whose claims are denied by making sure your application is accurate and complete. A lawyer can help you by answering any initial questions you have regarding this application. You should be sure your application includes:
- Names and contact information for all doctors, nurses, case workers or other medical professionals who have provided care and treatment for your condition.
- All medical records, including all treatment and medications that you have received, which will help the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine that your condition is among those that the SSA lists as disabilities (or is equal to a listed medical impairment).
- A complete summary of your work history, including your W-2 forms and descriptions of the type of work you did.
Although you can go through several stages of appeal, it will save you and your family a lot of time and stress and avoid potential hardship if your initial application is approved.
2. A lawyer can communicate with your doctors.
Your doctor may be unfamiliar with terms that the SSA uses when determining whether an individual is disabled.
For instance, a musculoskeletal system disability requires evidence that you are unable to “ambulate effectively.”
A lawyer could help your doctor to understand what the SSA means by this term or other terms, which can help the doctor in assessing your condition.
3. If your claim is denied, a lawyer can help you meet appeals deadlines and present new evidence.
If your application for disability benefits is denied, you can appeal the SSA’s determination. However, you must use the proper forms and submit a request for reconsideration within 60 days of your denial date (plus five days for mailing time).
A lawyer can make sure you meet this deadline. If you have already missed a deadline, your lawyer can try to get your case back on track by filing a letter that shows “good cause” for your delay in appealing.
Also, when your case is reconsidered, you can present new medical evidence or other evidence. Your attorney can gather and compile this evidence to help your case.
4. An attorney can help you seek an expedited hearing.
If your case is denied twice – your initial application and request for reconsideration – you will be entitled to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). It can take several months for your hearing to be calendared. Meanwhile, you may be struggling to make ends meet while waiting on your disability benefits.
A lawyer can take steps to try to expedite your hearing. For instance, your lawyer can:
- Write a dire need letter – The letter would describe the severe hardship you may be facing as you wait for your hearing, such as eviction or foreclosure.
- Seek an on the record review – An attorney could also seek a way to get your case decided without a hearing. Your lawyer could compile evidence and write a brief for an on-the-record review. A decision on your claim could come much sooner than if your case went to a hearing before an ALJ.
5. A lawyer can help you prepare for your hearing.
An upstate South Carolina attorney who is familiar with hearings before ALJs who decide cases at the Greenville Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) will be in a good position to prepare your case. For instance, the attorney will know:
- Evidence the ALJ will need to determine your case, including medical records and information about the type of work you performed before your condition arose. (Because many months may pass between your request for a hearing and your hearing date, you will need to make sure you have the most recent medical records.)
- Questions the ALJ is likely going to ask you about your condition and ability to work. (You will want to make sure that you clearly communicate what your medical impairment is and how it has impacted your ability to work.)
The more you are prepared for your ALJ hearing, the greater your chance of success.
6. During the hearing, a lawyer will know how to ask the right questions.
During the course of the hearing, your attorney will have the chance to ask questions of you, your witnesses and medical and vocational experts. A lawyer who has experience with hearings held at the Greenville ODAR office will know how to elicit the information from you and the other witnesses that the ALJ will most likely need to make a decision on your claim.
7. A lawyer can help you simultaneously seek other benefits that you need.
If your condition arose because of a work-related injury or illness, you can seek South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits at the same time that you are pursuing SSD benefits. An attorney can handle both of these matters for you and make sure all proper paperwork is submitted in a timely and accurate manner.
Discuss Your Case with a Lawyer
Seeking disability benefits is a complex and challenging process. Although you are not required to work with a local attorney in pursuing these benefits, doing so can speed up the process and greatly enhance your chances of success.
To learn how a lawyer from Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., can help you, contact us today. Our initial consultations are free, and we charge nothing for our services unless you obtain the benefits you are seeking.