When to Talk to a Social Security Disability Lawyer
While involving a Social Security Disability lawyer in your benefits claim might seem like a big step to take, there are several points at which you may benefit from one. Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be a complicated process, and even a small mistake could cost you your claim.
Whether you have yet to make your claim or are in the middle of an appeal, consider the following points as a chance to seek legal help.
If you are unsure of your claim
Having a claim denied might affect your future chances of obtaining any benefits. If you are uncertain whether your claim meets the SSA’s specifications, filing can be a risk. Before filing for a claim, speak with an attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. to enhance your chances of receiving benefits. Your initial consultation is free, and we never charge a fee unless a recovery is made.
One of our experienced Social Security lawyers can evaluate your case and the odds of success for your claim. Your lawyer can tell you how your disability will be assessed, as well as what is required throughout the claims process. Your work history will also be reviewed to ensure you have made enough contributions to Social Security to claim benefits.
Obtaining help from an attorney will save you from the effort of filing an unviable claim or strengthen your argument or a claim. Your attorney can also provide information regarding anything you can do to make your case stronger.
Before filing your claim
Many claimants might be rejected based on the application itself. The SSA is strict about what must be included. Any missing information may result in a rejected claim. There is also a list of evidence you must provide, certifying your citizenship, age, and employment details.
Small mistakes can lead to denied applications which impact your future likelihood of a claim. Denied claims appear on future claims as well, so the SSA can see the denial and are more likely to deny the new one as well, especially if you start a new claim instead of an appeal.
Most people do not contact lawyers until after they have been denied a claim, but at this point, it has already been made much harder. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to receive the best chance of a successful claim.
Before speaking with your physician
A supporting statement from your doctor may make a significant impact on the success of your claim. While your medical records will be reviewed in detail, your claim should ultimately prove your condition does not allow you to work. Your doctor should be able to attest to this.
If your doctor does not understand how your disability has affected your ability to work, you may not be provided with the supporting details you need from them. A Cochran, Kroll & Associates lawyer, like Eileen Kroll who is also a registered nurse, will know which topics you should discuss with your physician while being assessed.
An attorney will also know which pieces of evidence can make the strongest case and will tell you if there is anything missing.
If you want to file for SSI
Some claimants will wish to file for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as a result of their disabilities. This welfare program can be very helpful to those who have low incomes, but the requirements for this differ from disability benefits.
When applying for SSI in Michigan, you are required to prove you are earning below a certain threshold before you are considered eligible. This proof requires evidence other than what you will provide for your disability application or hearing. In either case, a Social Security Disability lawyer from our law firm can help you file successful claims.
If you become overwhelmed
Applying for disability benefits is stressful. At the same time, your disability might limit the energy and focus required for the application, evidence gathering, and appeals.
Even if you are familiar with the tasks and requirements for this process, it can be easy for physical conditions, depression, or anxiety to affect your capability to complete them.
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. we understand you may have limitations due to your health and overall well-being, and that is why we are prepared to take on the tasks you cannot, as well as offer advice and guidance.
If you do not know what evidence to provide
To increase the chances of an initial claim, include medical records. Not every record will be relevant, so consult your attorney about which records would be most beneficial to your claim. An attorney with experience in this field, like Eileen Kroll, will know what evidence can improve the chances of success for your initial application.
If your application is denied
The majority of initial applications for disability benefits are denied, which only makes it harder to file another claim.
You will have 60 days after your claim is denied to file for an appeal. Your attorney will know how the appeals process works and can guide you through it. You can also learn what to expect and how to prepare for your hearing from your attorney.
If your application was denied because you made an error, speaking with an attorney form our firm at this stage can prevent the same mistakes from occurring again.
When your appeal is taking too long
Many appeal applications can take months to be processed. It is often recommended to keep in contact with the SSA during this time to stay informed about the status of your case.
You might also need to contact the disability examiner assigned to the claim, or the Disability Determination Services (DDS).
If your case is being delayed, you may not be able to determine the reason for this on your own, as there are many reasons a delay might occur. A Cochran, Kroll & Associates attorney can monitor your case and keep you abreast of the progress so you can focus on your health.
When a claim is being processed at an appeals level, the communication requirements will change, as the claim is now under the responsibility of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Your attorney will know how to navigate this part of the communication and can ensure your case is being carefully monitored.
When communication becomes difficult
Communicating with the SSA regularly may be inconvenient for many claimants. It can also be a frustrating task to perform, particularly when you are emotionally invested in the outcome of the case.
Some claimants may also struggle with the demands of communication due to their disabilities.
Your attorney will know how to speak with the SSA and will communicate with them on your behalf. A social security benefits lawyer is specifically trained to handle these situations.
When gathering evidence for an appeal
Without current and relevant medical evidence, your appeal will be denied, which means gathering additional records is non-optional for a successful hearing. The more difficult part is understanding and providing what is necessary for the claims.
The longer the wait between the denial and the date of the hearing, the more records will be required to prove your current condition. This proof means keeping in contact with medical providers and your doctor.
A social security attorney will know what evidence is needed and what it needs to prove. The attorney will also be familiar with the requirements for “current” evidence of your condition and can help ensure your claim is not denied on these grounds.
When preparing for an appeals hearing
A disability claim hearing can be intimidating when you are representing yourself. If you speak with an attorney, he or she can help to prepare you for what to expect.
Experienced Social Security Disability lawyers will know what questions are usually asked at the hearings and can tell you how to phrase your answers most effectively.
When reviewing your claim
Before a hearing takes place, you have the option to review your claims file. At this stage, it is possible you might see the reason your claim was denied. The reason could be something as simple as a mistake on the part of the examiner.
These types of mistakes can be hard to spot for the untrained eye. Involving an attorney at this point can allow him or her to look over your file and determine and correct the problems.
When you hope to match a listing
One of the first ways in which your disability is evaluated is against the SSA’s listings. These are held in what is known as the Blue Book. Each listing specifies the criteria for a disability.
If your disability matches the criteria for one of the listings, your claim should be approved. An attorney may be able to help ensure the evidence and physician’s statements provided match with the SSA’s listings.
When you need to use the grid
Unfortunately, many claimants’ disabilities do not match the SSA disability listings because of the specificity.
In this case, you are required to prove your eligibility for benefits using something known as the grid. This grid compares your functional abilities to different levels of work and is used to judge whether you are capable of employment.
Without the assistance of an attorney, it can be challenging to understand which types of evidence will be best to prove you meet the requirements of the grid. This proof requires knowledge of both the vocational and medical guidelines used by the SSA when making their determination.
If your appeal is denied
There are several reasons an appeal could be denied. You may not have had the evidence the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) felt was needed, or you might have been incorrectly deemed fit for employment by the vocational assessment. If applying for SSI, your financial evidence might not have been adequate.
Those whose appeals are denied might not have spoken to an attorney before. Statistically, you are far more likely to be approved at the appeals stage with legal representation. This likelihood means it is important to seek the help of an attorney before the appeals stage.
Your attorney can determine why your previous appeal was denied. He or she could tell you which additional medical records or evidence should be obtained before moving on to the next stage.
When filing a new application
In some cases, it can be advisable to file a new application while you pursue a higher level of appeal. This dual appeal allows the new claim to be assessed during the appeals process, hopefully leading to success in one or the other.
At this point, however, an attorney’s guidance is essential. He or she can evaluate your case and advise you on whether filing a new claim is a good idea.
If you do file a new application, it should serve to provide new evidence regarding your disability. Your attorney will know which records to include and how to use them to argue for your claim as strongly as possible.
For an Appeals Council review
If you did not have legal representation at your hearing, you will need it at an Appeals Council review. You will be contesting the decision made by the ALJ at the hearing, which requires the expertise of a professional.
At this stage, you can submit additional evidence, as well as comments on the claim and hearing. You also have the right to request recordings of the hearing, and copies of hearing exhibits. Your attorney can perform these tasks for you. The attorney will know exactly what to ask for and how the evidence can be used in your favor.
The contact made with the Appeals Council should be done in a certain way, as they do not want claimants making frequent requests. An attorney will know how to keep communication efficient.
For a Federal Case
If your claim is denied by the Appeals Council, you have the right to file a civil suit against the SSA at a Federal level. It is also possible to do this if the Appeals Council refuses to hear your claim, which they might do if they agree with the ALJ’s ruling.
It is crucial to consult an attorney before proceeding to this step.
Regardless of what stage you are in of the process contact Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. for a free consultation and case evaluation so we can help you fight for your rights! Call our law firm toll free at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-642-4529). We never charge a fee unless a recovery is made.
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