Hiring an attorney for SSI disability can happen when you first file a claim, when you’ve been denied and are seeking an appeal, or anytime during the process of your case.
Hiring an attorney gives you the maximum chance to win your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Even if you handle the initial steps yourself, you may face unforeseen challenges and realize you need the guidance of an expert in disability law.
The journey from applying for benefits to receiving them can be a long one.
However, once you consult an attorney, the process is just beginning. Luckily, you have an advocate in your corner to help guide you and give you the best chance for a positive outcome.
Here are 4 things to do after you retain your attorney for SSI disability.
4. Go to Every Doctor’s Appointment
Medical records and written doctors’ opinions are a major factor in proving your disability to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Georgia’s Disability Adjudication Services (DAS) agency.
Here are a few of the main types of medical records you may need for your case file:
- Diagnoses of conditions related to your disability
- Emergency room visit logs
- Treatment history
- Medical testing
- Medical history and background
- Statements from physicians
- Employer and attorney testimonies
It’s important to keep doctors’ appointments for testing and treatment of your disability. You should also maintain good communication with your primary care provider and specialists to ensure they provide records in a timely manner.
Since your case may take time to resolve, make sure you continue to seek regular medical care and have access to the most recent six months’ records, especially if your disability worsens over time.
An attorney can help you gather the proper records for your case file.
3. Build a Timeline of Your Case with your SSI Disability Attorney
As SSI is a needs-based benefits program, it’s crucial to know the likely timeline of your case as it evolves. This way, you can plan financially for when you can realistically expect to begin receiving benefits.
An initial decision about your SSI benefits can take 3 to 5 months on average, according to the SSA. However, this also depends on how quickly they receive medical records and other factors of your case. If the claim is denied and you are seeking a reconsideration from the SSA, it can take an additional few months.
An appeal hearing with an administrative law judge is a considerably more in-depth process and can take anywhere from 6 months to a year, in some states taking even up to two years on average before you appear before the judge.
The Appeals Council and a federal appeal can each take a year to reach their respective decisions.
You have sixty days after each claim denial to apply for each next level of appeal, but you should plan to appeal immediately so not to extend your time waiting for benefits.
There are times when you can potentially speed up your case, such as if you have a dire financial need or are a disabled Veteran applying for SSI. However, these circumstances vary on a case-by-case basis and should be discussed with your attorney.
2. Plan for Appeals Hearings
A vast majority of those who apply for SSI disability benefits are initially denied, and a reconsideration by the SSA is even less likely to go in the claimant’s favor.
While having an attorney can help better your chances during these initial stages, you have the best statistical chance of winning your benefits during an appeal before an administrative law judge.
That’s why preparing with your attorney for the appeals process is crucial.
The first step is to file an appeal with the SSA, either online or at your local Social Security field office. However, your attorney will likely consult you on this and other steps of your appeal request.
You will be given the option to have a Video Teleconference hearing remotely. You may also choose to have an in-person hearing, although this can increase your wait time, and a hearing can be held up to 75 miles from your home.
Your attorney may prefer an in-person hearing so they can better advocate for you before the judge.
To best prepare your attorney to help you win your claim, you can:
- Keep your attorney up to date with any change in your medical status prior to your hearing
- Let your attorney know if you have a change in contact information, home address, family income, etc.
- Ask questions when you don’t understand complicated legal topics related to your appeal hearing
- Consult with your attorney to ensure you have all the proper medical records and paperwork relating to your case
Your legal team should lead you through this process and help you stay prepared for your hearing. You can best help them by following their advice and instructions.
1. Trust Your SSI Disability Attorney’s Advice? Trust Your Instincts
Consider the reasons you retained your attorney in the first place. You likely went through a free initial consultation and took the time to interview your attorney about the specific needs of your claim.
You may have asked questions about their experience practicing disability law for SSI claimants and what level of advocacy and communication to expect from their firm.
Whatever standards and expectations they set for you are the standards and expectations you should hold them to.
Hopefully, your attorney meets your expectations. So long as they’re providing a quality legal service that meets your needs, trust your attorney’s advice.
Remind yourself that the right SSI disability attorney has an intrinsic knowledge of disability law, the SSA’s regulations, and how to navigate the local court system and administrative law judges’ expectations.
If your Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck and Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 795-7227.