The short answer is no you don't need an attorney in your SSDI or SSI claim. However, statistics do show
that those that are represented are more likely to win. So if you do decide to go it alone you must get as much knowledge
on Social Security Disability as possible. If you have a good understanding of how Social Security determines if you are disabled
and make sure you get all your medical records including RFCs you will increase your chances of winning on your own.
This is true even if you have a representative. If you plan on representing yourself take a look at the how to win
section of this site. You should also read the key to SSDI and SSI
and SSDI and SSI tips
page. You will also want to review the stage you are at whether it is application
or Appeals Council
. Lastly you should have a good understanding of the GRID rules
and the Medical Listing of Impairments
If you are at the hearing stage or Appeals Council even if you understand the Social Security Disability process
you may want to consider having an attorney at this point. A lawyer who has handled Social Security Disability
hearings before is comfortable in that setting and should be able to make sure you are given a fair hearing. Most ALJs
are fair and if an attorney is not representing the claimant will try to make sure that claimant gets a full and fair
hearing. But I know from experience that a small number of Administrative Law Judges will not look after your interest
in fact some can be quite hostile. A lawyer representing you at the hearing will make sure all questions are asked that
need to be asked and will organize your case and present a winnable theory of your case to the ALJ. It
also helps to have a lawyer at your hearing even if you ultimately lose at that stage because your next step is to the Appeals
Council and the lawyer will have to come up with a theory as to why the case should be reversed (appeals council
finds you disabled) or remanded (sent back for a new hearing).
Why should you have a lawyer at the Appeals
Council stage? You could just fill out the request for review form and give your reason you think the ALJ made
the wrong decision but it is much more effective to have a well written letter brief to the Appeals Council stating the law
that is relied on in your argument. This requires an extremely good understanding of Social Security Law and how it
applies to a judges decision. It is probably a good idea to have an attorney or experienced representative
write a letter brief to the Appeals Council due to the need to know the grounds for having a case reversed or remanded.
But no two are the same and each one requires good sources of information that attorneys who practice in this area have.
If you would like to speak to a lawyer who has handled thousands of Social Security Disability claims you can email me
. I am a Board Certified Social Security Disability Specialist by the National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy.
Please note that this website is seen nationally and not all states recognize the use of this title.
Why get a Lawyer when you apply for SSDI?
Get a Law Firm Involved From the Start: By Tracey Cahn, Esq. attorney for Kazmierczak and Kazmierczak, LLP.
Why should I have an attorney involved in my case before I apply for Social Security benefits?
If you have to go through a MINE FIELD, would you rather have a buddy with a map of the field or go it alone?
Sure, you may make it through the mine field successfully, but you might not. The social security process has too much in
common with the mine field to go it alone.
Please note, I specified that the attorney/firm be “involved.”
I am not talking about a firm that simply signs you up and then never communicates with you until your hearing. For
a firm to be worth your confidence, you need to be able to reach out and discuss issues of importance to your case –
how you determine your onset date, whether your doctors are supportive of your claim, how to explain your level of function
to Social Security, etc. and etc.
Recently I represented three very disabled people who did hire our firm at
the eleventh hour; within weeks of their hearing dates. John X, Donald Y, and Cari Z. While I have some confidence
that we will eventually prevail in at least 2 of these cases, I am confident that we would have won all three relatively easily
had they come to us from the start. Why? John X overstated his activities, Donald Y was too embarrassed to state
all his problems and Cari Z failed to realize and treat her profound mental illness until she had been out of work for nearly
At some point John X had an attorney, but about a month before his hearing, that attorney
quit on him because his case was weak. It would have been nice had the attorney given John X more notice. Anyway,
John called our office. After hearing the particulars, we took the case on the provision that John would get the hearing
postponed. That he did. (Please note, it is not that we could not have represented him with one week notice. It
would not have been fair to other clients who already had deadlines to be met.)
In reviewing the paperwork, I saw the
prior attorney’s point. John had horribly misrepresented his post onset work attempts and, if not corrected, there
could be no finding in his favor on the Title II claim.
In a nutshell: John worked as a laborer for most
of his life. His parents had been very interested in antiques. It was John’s dream to be involved in the
world of antiques and to make that his occupation. As John aged, his body began to give out on him. He could no longer
lift and carry the weights required of his job. Despite his doctors’ warnings, he continued to push himself.
After many years of pushing himself beyond reason, John cannot lift and carry, has balance issues, and is very limited with
regard to sitting, standing and walking.
John had never performed skilled work and had never done sedentary work.
When he was around age 50, John’s boss told him that he could not use him any longer primarily due to his physical impediments.
Antiques would be the answer. John and his wife set out to open an antique shop. They converted part of
their home for this purpose. However, by this time, John’s body was too decrepit to do all the work necessary
to attempt this business. Long story short, if someone came to the store, John would generally be able to show his wares;
the rest of the day was spent lying in a recliner and maybe doing some research on the Internet. His “business”
was really a hobby, and it was not profitable.
So, what was standing between John and getting his Social Security
benefits? Simple, John’s statements to SSA were destroying his case.
John applied for benefits in 2009.
He had not earned any money since 2000. Based on Social Security rules, he had to prove that his ongoing disability
from work had begun and had been continuous since before the end of 2005. This would have been supported by his doctors
and his earnings, but it was not supported by John’s statements to Social Security.
John did not understand
that he had to prove ongoing disability since before the end of 2005, and he wanted to impress Social Security with how hard
he worked and how long he tried to work, and how he did not ask for disability benefits lightly and how he had only put in
this application as a last resort….etc. The problem is John wrote Social Security lengthy letters about how he
had been working his antique business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until the end of 2008, 3 years after his date last insured.
What should John have told Social Security? The TRUTH!!! His cause would have been much better served had
he simply stated the truth; he moved from his job as a laborer due to his multiple progressive medical conditions that his
employer was not willing to abide any long and then he set up an antique store that he was able to work no more than a few
hours a week, and that his fatigue and pain precluded him from doing much more than that.
is still reviewing his case. In the meanwhile, we were able to file his wife’s application for her disability
benefits, and she prevailed quickly.