This is a question we receive quite frequently. The Social Security Administration does not require you to have an attorney represent you. In fact, you can represent yourself. However, many claimants find using an attorney to be very helpful in every aspect of the Social Security Disability process, from completing all the paperwork to presenting their case before the judge at the hearing.
Statistics show that a claimant who hires an attorney has a better chance of success before the Social Security Administration. A seasoned Social Security Disability attorney can guide you through the red tape and make sure the evidence supporting your disability is brought to the Social Security Administration’s attention.
It is our experience that one of the greatest hurdles in the Social Security Disability application process is simply that the government doesn’t ask the right questions. In many instances, an individual is clearly disabled and could be found disabled pursuant to the Vocational Medical Grids or could equal or meet a Listing. But the application process doesn’t give the claimant the opportunity to explain their disability in a manner that would allow the Social Security Administration to find them disabled. The situation becomes even more complicated for an unrepresented claimant should they receive a denial letter. The Social Security Administration will usually send a generic form letter which simply states:
You said you became disabled on August 31, 2006 because of: shoulder, hand and arm complications.
The medical evidence in the file shows that your condition does cause some restrictions in your ability to function. However, based on your description of your previous employment we have concluded that you are still able to do your past work.
An experienced Social Security Disability lawyer has the knowledge and expertise to refute this blanket denial. Often there is additional evidence which would prove that you could not return to your previous jobs or work any other jobs. In many instances there are also additional medical conditions which the Social Security Administration did not take into account.
Another obstacle that an unrepresented claimant faces is the many forms and examinations required by the Social Security Administration as part of the disability application process. Our clients frequently feel bombarded with all the paperwork. This is another instance where a knowledgeable attorney can provide valuable assistance.
Perhaps the most important time to have an attorney is at the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). At the hearing the judge will usually call a Vocational Expert (VE) to appear and to testify regarding jobs available in the national economy. Also, the judge will usually require a Medical Expert (ME), almost always a doctor, to testify regarding your medical condition.
After the Vocational Expert and Medical Expert (doctor) testify, the claimant would otherwise be expected to not only present evidence of their own disability, but also cross-examine the government witnesses. It is important to remember that the Vocational Expert and doctor testify routinely before the Social Security Administration. For many of these experts it is their sole or main source of income. Effectively cross-examining them is no small task. A skilled lawyer can point out additional information conveniently neglected by the government witnesses and present evidence about your medical condition and job limitations which can strengthen your case.
The Social Security Administration has experts on their side. Hiring an attorney gives you an expert on your side; someone who is familiar with the rules and regulations that will govern your case. A good attorney can tell your side of the story.
If you have any questions about this issue, or any issue regarding workers’ compensation, feel free to speak to us by using our no charge initial consultation offer. You can contact us at 312-263-6330 or through the toll-free State of Illinois injury hotline at 1-800-444-1525. You can also visit us on the web at www.kfeej.com.