Nobody wants to be so disabled they can't work, but it happens. Social Security benefits are available to help disabled citizens afford daily expenses. If you've recently been injured and are considering filing for Social Security, the process may seem scary, so it's best to be prepared for what to expect. Check out these three facts you must know before you apply.
It's Best to Get an Attorney or Advocate
Proving disability for Social Security benefits is a major undertaking, and claim processors are hunting for a reason to deny your claim. Therefore, if you are applying for disability, you should hire a lawyer or an advocate as soon as possible. If you hire an attorney, make sure they specialize in disability. Non-attorney advocates don't have a legal degree and have not taken the state bar exam. They generally have a bachelor's degree, participate in continuing education courses and have passed an exam set forth by the Social Security Administration.
Whether you choose a social security disability attorney or advocate, they have a thorough understanding of Social Security and disability, so they know what information to include in your claim, such as all medical charts and doctors notes. They can also spot when your medical file needs updating. Lawyers and advocates receive the same amount of pay, which comes out of the back pay awarded to you when you win your claim. It's usually 25 percent of your back pay or $6000, whichever is less. The cost may increase if you must appeal, but $6000 is usually the maximum.
Your Claim Will Probably Get Denied
The first step in getting Social Security disability is to file a claim with the Social Security Administration. Social Security representatives begin processing your claim by verifying non-medical information, such as your age, name, Social Security coverage, marital status, employment, etc. If they find any incorrect information, the claim is denied or corrections are requested. If all the information is correct, it is passed along to the Disability Determination Services. They are responsible for determining if you are disabled and the extent of your disability by examining medical records and doctor notes.
Whether you have a lawyer, advocate or are going it alone, most claims are denied at this initial level. After this first denial, you can request that your claim be reconsidered because you forgot some information or had incorrect information, but again, it is usually denied. The next step is the first appeal.
Appealing Means Having an Official Hearing With A Judge
Appealing your claim doesn't just mean providing more information, filling out a special form or submitting it to a different person. An appeal is an official hearing, and the decision is determined by a judge. You will be put on the spot and asked questions about your condition, such as how the injury occurred, how it affects your mobility, whether you think you could return to work, etc. Your answers, your doctor's answers and any proof of your disability, such as medical records, must prove your disability.
This is the most important time to hire an attorney or advocate. If you haven't done so already, you should. Of course, it's possible to win the case without an attorney, but your chances skyrocket when you have help. An attorney and advocate know what the judge is looking for with each disability, so they get all the relevant facts out there and don't waste time on unnecessary information. They can also work with you before the hearing to help shape your answers. If necessary, you can appeal once more on the federal level, but an advocate cannot file an appeal for you.
Social Security is designed to help you when you can't work, so use it. The process is long, but if you know what to expect, it's not nearly as overwhelming as it could be. If you are injured and cannot work, contact a disability lawyer or non-attorney advocate today.