Whether you’ve already applied for Social Security disability or you’ve only just suffered an injury or illness that has prevented you from work, it can be extremely helpful to consult with a disability attorney. A disability attorney can help you through the claim process and all communications with the Social Security Administration along the way. The application process can be time-consuming and a little confusing for some, so working with a social security lawyer can take some of the stress out of the equation.
When you first reach out to a disability attorney, they will conduct an initial interview to assess the merits of your case and to decide whether or not they’ll take your case. This is usually done over the phone, although it is possible to do so in person.
They will ask a series of questions to gather basic facts about your disability, work history, etc. If he/she or one of their trained staff members determines that your case has a high chance of success, they’ll then schedule an appointment for you to meet with the attorney and discuss matters further.
It’s important to be prepared for your initial meeting with a social security lawyer. The following is a step-by-step guide for what you can expect in that meeting.
What to Bring
When meeting with a social security lawyer, you’ll want to be concise and have all of the relevant information for them to properly discuss your case with you. You should write down all of the information below to bring with you to your first meeting:
- Education, work, and training history from the past 10 years. This should include start and end dates for all jobs. Also be sure to include any recent jobs and how your injury or illness affected them.
- Current job and job responsibilities It is important to note the physical requirements, especially the more demanding and challenging activities. Your job description should contain this information.
- Application status If you’ve already applied for or are receiving disability, bring any documentation you’ve received from the SSA including denial letters or hearing notices. They will want to know the timeline of your claim as well.
- Whether you have or have not paid into Social Security through payroll deductions
- Medical diagnosis
- Medical records of any lab results or tests relevant to your condition, if you have them. This might include blood or imaging tests.
- List of current medications, treatments, and any upcoming surgeries or procedures
- Names and addresses of doctors or specialists you’ve seen since you’ve stopped working.
- Description of your physical limitations. This should include how long you are able to sit and stand, the amount of weight you can lift and carry, or information relevant to any other activity that is required for your occupation.
- Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The initial meeting is for you to interview the social security lawyer, just as much as he or she is learning more about your particular case. Write down your questions and bring them to the meeting. You can see a list of suggested questions below.
If you’ve already applied for Social Security disability, a lot of the information above will be in the application, adult disability report, and work history report. Be sure to bring those documents with you if that is the case.
With the information listed above, you can go into your meeting with confidence and leave with the answers you need to move forward. A social security lawyer is more likely to take your case if you come in prepared. However, the information and documents described above aren’t required and you shouldn’t hesitate to consult an attorney if you can’t locate everything in the list above, as sometimes it is difficult or impossible for you to find everything. The attorney may have suggestions for further methods of obtaining required and or helpful information and documents.
What to Expect
Your first meeting with a social security lawyer will essentially be a chance for them to learn more about your situation, to assess the strength of your claim, and to decide whether or not they will be able to help. This will be based on the medical evidence they can gather from your information and whether they feel it is strong enough to win your case.
A disability attorney will ask you to sign a medical privacy release so that they are able to access your medical records to use in your case. Some attorneys may pay for the upfront costs of obtaining these records until your case is over. You’ll be billed for these costs at the end of your case. Other times, you will be responsible for covering the costs.
It’s also important to know that social security lawyers do not require any payment upfront for their services. They get paid when your case is won (known by attorneys as a contingency case).
Helpful Questions to Ask at Your First Meeting
As mentioned above, the initial consultation with a social security lawyer is not only about them learning about your situation and deciding whether they want to work on your case. It is also your chance to get a feel for whether or not you want to work with them.
The following is a list of helpful questions for you to ask in order to decide if an attorney is right for you:
- How long have you been practicing social security/disability law? How much of your practice is dedicated to it?
- How many disability cases and hearings have you worked on in your career and what percentage of the cases were a success, resulting in the claimant receiving disability benefits?
- Will you be handling my case personally or will it be passed on to a law clerk, legal assistant or someone else in the firm?
- Are there any out of pocket costs I should know about? If so, how are they handled?
- What percentage of my SSDI or SSI back payments will you charge me if the SSA grants my claim for benefits? (25%?)
- Are there any potential problems you see with my claim?
You want to work with a social security lawyer that is experienced and dedicated to disability law. You also want one that has a good reputation and high success rate. Keep in mind, the average approval rate for most disability attorneys runs around 60%.
A lawyer may have reservations about your specific claim for a few reasons. If you haven’t seen a doctor regularly, you haven’t worked recently enough, or you’re already receiving unemployment benefits, they might choose to not represent you.
Filing a claim for social security disability insurance can be complicated and stressful. It doesn’t have to be, however. Working with a social security lawyer can give you guidance and clarity throughout the process.