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Do You Need a Lawyer for Social Security Disability Benefits?

June 23, 2022

There are roughly 10 million people in the United States who receive social security disability benefits, making it an important and obtainable safety net for those who are unable to work because of a disability. That said, actually getting the benefits you deserve can still be challenging and will take time, especially if you make mistakes when filing your claim.

By hiring an experienced social security disability lawyer, you can give your claim the help it needs to be successful, while taking the pressure off you and your loved ones. At Karl Truman Law Office, we wrote the book on social security disability claims, and our attorneys are ready to help you evaluate your claim, file it, and fight back if it is wrongfully denied.

In this article, we will explain how a social security disability attorney can help those applying for benefits, when you should hire one, and how attorney fees are calculated in social security disability claims.

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a person making a phone call to a disability attorney

When Should I Hire a Social Security Disability Attorney?

When it comes to social security disability claims, the best time for most people to consult with an attorney is right away. Scheduling a free consultation before filing your claim will help you gauge the validity of your claim and help you learn what to expect. If you choose to hire an attorney early in the process, they can help you file your claim (avoiding common mistakes that can keep you from getting our benefits in a timely manner) and deal with the Social Security Administration (SSA) on your behalf.

If you have already filed and are awaiting a decision, it may be best to wait to hire an attorney, as they won’t provide much benefit during that time. However, if your claim is denied, an attorney can help you fight back by walking you through the reconsideration and appeals process, fighting back against wrongful denials, and protecting your claim from being undervalued.

Attorneys vs Representatives

Every attorney is a representative, but not every social security representative is an attorney. Social security representatives, although experienced, have different skillsets that may not match your needs. They may not be as familiar with the federal law surrounding social security disability claims, which could hinder your case’s chances of success.

It is also important to note that these representatives are allowed to charge you the same amount as disability attorneys. For the same cost, you deserve to have representation that can help you to the full extent of your needs.

No one should have to face an administrative law judge (ALJ), judges who decide social security claims, alone, so be sure you have the representation your claim deserves.

Related: Applying for Social Security Disability

Need Help Getting the Disability Benefits You Deserve?

Call An Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer for Free Legal Assistance Today!

How Can a Disability Attorney Help my Claim?

Social security disability insurance (SSDI) claims can be confusing and have many potential pitfalls that can lead to an unfair denial. The steps and details that go into filing an application, let alone processing it, can be a substantial burden for you and your loved ones.

Disability attorneys work hard to make sure you file correctly the first time and work with you to build the strongest claim possible. There are many areas where a disability attorney can be the difference between the success and denial of your disability claim, which makes hiring one early on all the more valuable.

Completing Your Application

The stakes are high with disability applications, particularly if you are unable to work or provide sufficient income for you and your loved ones. You need to do everything you can to get approved for benefits as quickly as possible.

Yet filling out in-depth government applications and paperwork can be extremely stressful and confusing. Unfortunately, most who apply for social security disability benefits are unsuccessful on their first attempt—around 70% of initial applications are denied.

While this doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to receive benefits, an appeal adds time to the process and must be filed quickly, extending your period of stress and financial uncertainty.  

An attorney who understands the disability claims process can give you a better chance of getting approved more quickly while taking the burden off your shoulders.

Filing Your Claim Properly and on Time

One of the most frustrating reasons disability claims are denied is because of incorrect filing. This could be related to a lack of important information, or something as simple as mixing up letters or words. An attorney can take the time needed to ensure the accuracy of your information and file the claim properly on your behalf.

Also, while there is technically no time limit for applying for social security disability, the work credits needed to receive benefits do expire—typically within 5 years of when you last worked. In addition, you are only able to receive retroactive benefits for the 12 months before being granted benefits.

A social security disability lawyer is aware of all time constraints, ensuring you don’t miss important deadlines that could impact your ability to receive the full benefits you deserve.

Reviewing Your Medical Records and Other Information

Beyond technical denials, such as an applicant not filling out paperwork properly or not having enough work credits, the second most common type of denial is medical denials. These typically stem from an applicant not providing enough medical documentation in their application.

With applications, you need to not only show all documentation of your disability—including tests, diagnoses, and other medical files—but you also need your doctor to prove that your disability is impacting your ability to work. Even if you are receiving regular medical attention from a physician, if there is no documentation proving your inability to work, your claim may be denied.

A social security disability attorney understands the level of detail needed for your medical documentation and helps make sure you have the necessary evidence, helping you avoid a medical denial.

Handling Requests for Additional Documents

Before a decision is made about your disability claim, a disability examiner may reach out for additional documentation. As with the initial application process, these requests can be confusing and frustrating.

An attorney will be able to handle this for you, ensuring you provide the correct documentation while submitting everything promptly to keep your case moving as fast as possible.

Advising You of Additional Options for Disability Benefits

An attorney’s first job should be to do everything possible to help you get SSDI benefits, but a good lawyer will also help you find additional ways to receive benefits.

For example, even if you are denied SSDI benefits, you may be able to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead (or sometimes even both concurrently). SSI benefits are not based on work credits, meaning you don’t have to meet requirements around how long, or how recently, you have worked. In fact, you don’t need to have any work history to qualify for SSI benefits.

There are other programs you may qualify for as well, including private disability programs through your employer or, if you served in the military, VA disability compensation. We can help you understand all options available to you, which can either be in place of or in addition to social security benefits.

Related: How Much Does a Social Security Disability Lawyer Cost?

a person with a disability approaching an attorney's desk
getting help filing a claim for disability benefits

How the Social Security Administration Determines Attorney Fees

The first thing you need to know about attorney fees for disability claims is that you will only pay if you win. These fees are decided on what is called a “contingency basis,” which means your attorney only makes money if you do. If your claim is successful with the help of a social security disability attorney, then your fee will be decided based on your benefits and the Social Security Administration’s rules around attorney fees.

The SSA caps attorney fees at 25% of owed back-pay (another term for benefits owed) or $6,000, whichever is less. An attorney may request further compensation, but only if there are outstanding circumstances like work beyond the normal scope of work. For example, if your attorney had to file multiple appeals or if you switched attorneys part way through, they may file for further compensation or compensation for both attorneys. However, the SSA must approve any additional fees before you pay them.

getting assistance with social security disability benefits
shaking hands with an attorney for social security disability benefits

Karl Truman Law Office: Helping Claimants Navigate the Social Security Claims Process

If you are considering filing for disability benefits—or have recently been denied benefits—we hope this has given you a better understanding of how a lawyer can help. It’s often a challenging process, but by working with a social security disability attorney who understands the information needed and how the system works, it can be made much easier on applicants.

To speak with us directly about your situation, call Karl Truman Law Office today (502) 222-2222 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.


The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.