Over 76,000 Georgia residents applied for disability benefits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in 2019, according to government data. Yet nearly two-thirds of those who apply for Social Security disability programs are initially denied.
Many of those who seek benefits must appeal an initial denial. It’s during an appeal hearing that claimants are statistically most likely to have a denial reversed and win their case.
An SSI attorney can be a crucial advocate during these hearings—and throughout the claim process.
When consulting an attorney, the first step is often to meet and determine the legal solutions they can offer for your needs.
But how do you get the most out of this meeting, so you can make the right decision about legal representation for your SSI case? What should you bring to your meeting? What questions should you ask?
How do you know if an attorney has the right kind of experience to help you?
SSI is a needs-based program for those who are 65 years old or older, blind, or disabled, as well as blind or disabled children. It’s for those with little or no income to cover necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and medicine.
For those seeking SSI, an attorney can help maximize the chance of being able to access those necessities.
Thus, an initial consultation with an SSI attorney is a crucial time to ask certain questions. Here’s what to ask.
How Much Will Hiring an SSI Attorney Cost?
For those who are disabled and struggling to meet basic needs, paying an attorney’s fee may seem out of reach.
However, SSI claimants often don’t pay an upfront attorney’s fee.
Instead, you will only pay a fee as a percentage of your initial winnings, or backpay, if you win your case. This amount is federally regulated to be limited to 25% of your first disability check, up to $6,000.
It’s important to discuss the fee structure of your case with your SSI attorney. This is usually laid out and agreed upon in a “contingency fee agreement” that must meet strict guidelines by the Social Security Administration.
Some attorneys may require certain nominal up-front fees, such as for gathering copies of medical records and other costs related to your case. Others may withhold these costs until your case is complete.
Many attorneys also offer a free initial consultation, which gives you an opportunity to determine if they are qualified to represent your disability claim.
Your attorney should be able to clearly explain your financial obligation as a client, as well as how that cost is regulated.
What Do You Need to Know about Your SSI Attorney?
Your attorney should be able to help you understand the basics about their firm’s experience with your particular type of claim and what the process will be when working together on your case.
- Is your type of claim within their primary area of practice?
- What percentage of cases have they won for their clients?
- What is their success rate once a case goes to an appeal hearing?
- What type of communication and access will you have with the firm?
- Are they reputable and in good standing with local courts?
By the end of your meeting, you should feel confident that your attorney is an expert who can help with your SSI claim for your exact medical condition and circumstances.
Can Your SSI Attorney Tell You How Long Your Claim Will Take?
No, an attorney cannot tell you exactly how long your SSI claim will take, as there are many variables that can affect this—including how complicated proving your condition is, the average wait time for a decision in a given period, and whether you are initially denied and must appeal.
An SSI case can take anywhere from months to years to resolve, depending on the circumstances.
There are some very specific instances for which your case can be somewhat expedited—such as your disability can be easily proven with medical evidence, or you have a dire need.
However, your attorney should not make concrete promises to you about a quick outcome. The reality is that SSI disability cases take time, and an attorney should be able to give you reasonable estimates about the process as you move through each stage of your claim.
Does Hiring an SSI Attorney Guarantee You’ll Win?
Winning SSI benefits is rarely a guarantee, with or without legal representation. However, an attorney can act as an expert advocate and give you the best possible chance of winning your case.
They can help prepare you for each stage of your case, from the initial application to the appeals process. During appeals hearings, they can argue on your behalf and present evidence.
Local attorneys are familiar with the expectations of Georgia Administrative Law Judges and other court personnel, and these working relationships with judges can lend credibility to your claim.
A qualified attorney should be able to illustrate different scenarios and potential outcomes that are adjusted with each stage of your case.
Most of all, an attorney should avoid false promises for a fast and easy outcome. They should be able to provide you with realistic expectations as to the potential outcome of your case—regardless of whether the outcome makes them look good.
If your disability will be difficult to prove or meet a clear disability listing, they should be able to tell you this while also showing how you can still make your best case to win benefits.
If your Supplemental Security Income claim or your Social Security Disability Insurance claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & 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) 795-7165.