Options for Social Security Disability Representation
If you’re disabled and applying for Social Security Disability, you’re faced with the decision of how to go about finding proper representation. You have three choices. You can (1) represent yourself, (2) hire a representative who’s not an attorney, or (3) hire an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. So, what’s the best choice? Let’s examine each option.
You can choose to represent yourself in a Social Security Disability case. However, due to the intricacies and nuances of Social Security Disability policies and procedures, this is not usually an advisable choice. Keep in mind that you’ll be facing off against the Social Security Administration (SSA), which employs a host of staff members, from claims examiners, to doctors, to attorneys, who are well-versed in administrative protocols and ready to deny your claim at every turn.
Should you choose to represent yourself, know that you might find yourself before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If so, you will be expected to collect and present evidence to the judge, as well as to cross-examine the medical and vocational experts who testify during court proceedings.
So, if after reading this, you’ve come to the conclusion that self-representation can be exceptionally stressful and very difficult, you’re right. It is possible, but not advisable.
2. Hiring a Representative Who’s Not an Attorney
Hiring a non-attorney representative is an alternative option for anyone looking for representation in a Social Security Disability case. However, non-attorney representatives can charge as much as an attorney, but lack the credentials and training required of the latter.
If you’re considering hiring a non-attorney representative, ask yourself this: you’re going to have to pay representation fees, so, why not pay an expert?
This leads us to the third option for Social Security Disability representation.
3. Hiring an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney
This is, hands down, the best option for someone seeking representation in a Social Security Disability case.
Why? Well, an experienced Social Security Disability attorney has the schooling, credentials, courtroom experience, familiarity with complicated SSA policies and procedures, and overall expertise to help you maximize the likelihood of a successful outcome.
What can an experienced attorney do? He or she can:
-Devise the most effective strategy to win your case based on your claim and medical records.
-Reopen any of your earlier applications, if appropriate, establish an earlier onset date, and even procure more in retroactive benefit payments.
-Properly establish your disability by (1) getting the appropriate paperwork to your doctors, and (2) advising that your doctors perform applicable disability testing.
-Make sure you’re ready for your hearing by informing you of what kinds of questions you’ll be expected to answer.
-Carefully choose who will testify on your behalf.
-Ensure that all of your records are current.
-Ensure that proper procedures are followed at all times.
-Present a clear and well-thought-out opening statement to the ALJ on your behalf and attend any necessary pre-hearing discussions with the judge as appropriate.
-Competently question you at your hearing and if necessary, supplement the ALJ’s direct examination.
-Produce and develop evidence-based proof of pain.
-Competently cross-examine witnesses that the ALJ calls to testify, including medical and vocational experts.
-Draft and deliver a closing argument that highlights your disability based on the evidence present in your file and testimony.
-Review and respond as necessary (i.e. object to) to post-hearing written questions sent to medical and vocational experts.
-Determine whether or not the outcome of your hearing is appropriate based on procedures and evidence presented, and appeal on your behalf if it is not.
So, unless you’re prepared to tackle all of this on your own, or trust a non-attorney to do so competently on your behalf, hiring an experienced Social Security Disability attorney is your best option. There is no guarantee of a favorable outcome. However, your likelihood of a favorable decision increases greatly when you have an experienced Social Security Disability attorney on your side.