“Many people are only vaguely aware that Social Security disability exists;
fewer still know how to go about getting the benefits they deserve.”
—Eight Mistakes To Avoid When Filing For Social Security Disability Benefits
by John Hensley and Kathleen Kreicker
Getting approved for Social Security is no cakewalk. The process can be very long and involve a lot of information-gathering and complex paperwork. Hiring an experienced disability attorney can make the difference between accepting denial and fighting for the benefits you deserve.
The Waiting Game
Filing for Social Security disability benefits is a three-step process:
- Completing a disability application and filing it with the Social Security Administration (SSA). (Warning: After an evaluation that typically takes 3-6 months, most of these applications are denied.)
- Filing a request for reconsideration appeal. This must be done within 60 days of receiving the denial. (Warning: Most of these reconsideration appeals are again denied after another 2-4 months of waiting!)
- Requesting a disability hearing and then waiting for the hearing to be scheduled. (Warning: This wait is the longest, sometimes lasting more than a year and a half!)
You can do the first two stages on your own if you’re particularly tenacious, but at the third stage, a disability attorney should analyze the case, obtain additional evidence to support the claim, and prepare a theory to present to the judge at the hearing.
Remember, all of the waiting listed above only starts after you decide to file for disability. Don’t wait any longer than you have to—the experienced Social Security disability attorneys at Hensley Legal Group can answer your questions and, when you’re ready, we can help you take that first step.
Why will a hearing change anything when you’ve already been rejected twice? There are a few reasons to stay positive through the rejections and press on toward the hearing:
- The Administrative Law Judge will have a chance to meet you and hear, in your own words, why you cannot work. You will become more than just a name on a piece of paper.
- You will likely have received additional medical treatment since you filed your application. Your condition may have worsened, or you may have new medical conditions that could prevent you from being able to work. This means there could be more evidence to support your claim, and the judge will weigh all of the new evidence when making a decision.
- The judge will take into consideration the opinion of your own physician. In fact, the opinion of a claimant’s own physician can sometimes be granted “controlling weight” on a case. At the earlier stages of the process, the SSA typically gives preference to the opinions of its own medical consults, not your own physician.
- A disability attorney may know which judges are tougher or more lenient on certain categories of cases and can use that knowledge in preparing your case. Having a disability attorney represent your case ensures that it is presented in the most professional and complete form possible. The expertise of a disability lawyer can make a big difference in the outcome.
When the wait for a hearing is finally over, many disability applicants finally see positive results. Any disability case that involves a severe physical or mental impairment that has caused a person to be unable to work at a substantial gainful activity level for at least one full year could result in the judge awarding disability benefits.
Hiring a Disability Attorney: We Don’t Get Paid Unless You Do
Many people are reluctant to hire a Social Security disability attorney because they think they cannot afford one. Did you know that the majority of disability attorneys work on a contingency basis, taking a fee only after you’ve won your case?
When you first hire a disability attorney, you sign a fee agreement allowing the SSA to pay your attorney out of the back pay owed to you after your disability claim has been approved. The SSA limits the attorney fee to 25 percent of the past-due benefits you are awarded, up to a maximum of $6,000.
Hensley Legal Group will not ask you to pay anything if your claim is not approved.
You can apply for Social Security disability benefits online, over the phone, or by calling to set up an appointment at your local Social Security office.
If you’re struggling to get the disability benefits you deserve, call Hensley Legal Group today.