Is it Important to Have a Social Security Disability Attorney Handle Your Appeal?
If an upcoming Social Security disability hearing has you worried, should you hire a disability attorney to help you? A lawyer at your side isn’t strictly required but having one can substantially enhance your chances of a win.
If your claim is at first turned down, you get to appeal for reconsideration. If you face disappointment at the initial appeal level, you have the option to ask for a hearing by an administrative law judge or ALJ. At your hearing, the ALJ is able to give the medical evidence attached to your case a thorough review and listen to the testimonies that you and your witnesses have before they decide whether to accept your disability claim or not.
At the disability hearing, your medical evidence is the part that has the greatest influence on the outcome. The ALJ views your medical papers, listens to your version to understand why you are unable to work, and seeks clarifications from the vocational expert present. Can a disability lawyer help you through this process? What follows are ideas on how having such a professional around to take charge can work to your advantage.
Putting your medical records together
Your ALJ needs to be able to see your complete treatment history to be able to arrive at a meaningful verdict. If there are gaps or inconsistencies in your medical documentation, they may have no choice but to deny your claim. While you can organize your medical records yourself, an attorney can speed up the process, notice what is missing or when specific records are out of date, and make corrections.
Obtaining professional medical opinions
It’s important to present to the court a complete medical opinion by your treating physician. The opinion appears as a detailed form and includes information on how and why you may be unable to work. Doctors tend to be reluctant to take out the time needed to fill out such voluminous paperwork, however, and tend to respond better to requests by lawyers, than ones by patients. Should your medical history support your claim insufficiently for any reason, your attorney should also be able to notice, and apply to Social Security to arrange for further physical or psychological tests to help bolster your case.
Preparing to perform well at the hearing
If you are unfamiliar with the kind of questions you will need to be ready for at the hearing, you could go in feeling nervous, and end up making mistakes. With a disability attorney by your side, however, you should be able to go over the questions that are likely to come up, in advance, and go in confident of a good performance.
Putting the vocational expert through their paces at the hearing
The Social Security Administration hires a consultant called a vocational expert for the hearing to offer the judge expert opinion on the ways in which your health problems are likely to hinder you in your ability to carry out your duties at a job. If the expert testifies that your disabilities do allow you to take up certain occupations, however, your claim is likely to be denied.
A disability attorney has the training needed to cross-examine the expert and demonstrate to the judge that the jobs they refer to aren’t realistic alternatives for you. For instance, they may be able to get them to admit that those jobs aren’t available in significant numbers or how those jobs come with certain physical or mental demands that you are unable to meet. It can be difficult for the average disability claimant to effectively cross-examine a vocational expert in this way on their own.
Technically, if your disability claim is denied, you have the right to appeal it all by yourself. With a great deal riding on getting your appeal right, however, it would make sense to make the best of the opportunity you have to have let the judge see the merits of your case. Going in with an experienced disability attorney gives you that chance.