Do I Need a Lawyer if I Already Filed an SSD Claim for Benefits?

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Already Filed an SSD Claim?

A reader wrote in with this question: “I filed an SSD claim already and it’s been months. Should I have an attorney join in now, or just wait to hear my results from the SSA?”

Reader, this is an excellent question. Waiting so long to hear anything when you file for Social Security disability is frustrating. So, it’s natural that you’d think about trying to find ways to speed up that process.

Our answer to your question has two parts. First, since you already filed your SSD claim, wait for your decision letter from the SSA to arrive by mail. If the SSA denies you benefits, then an attorney can help you file your appeal within 60 days. But if the SSA approves your initial SSD claim, then you don’t need to hire an attorney at all. We’ll explain how you benefit from having an attorney help you file your first SSD claim below.

Why It’s Better to Have an Attorney File Your First Disability Application

Why do we think you’re better off having an attorney help you file your first application for disability? Doing so saves you time and aggravation, and it almost always results in a better outcome. This is true for several reasons:

  1. An attorney knows how to fill your SSD claim the right way, which is more important than you think. The SSA can deny you benefits for things like writing in the margins, stapling pages together, or unreadable handwriting.
  2. Recent, relevant medical records to support your application are crucial for SSD claim approval. An attorney knows exactly which ones you’ll need and can pay for them if you can’t without charging you anything.
  3. People who win benefits after they appeal a denied SSD claim often wait up to three years for payments. An attorney can potentially shave 1-2 years off your wait to receive benefits by getting everything right the first time.
  4. Only 6% of people who file initial claims without a lawyer receive disability benefits the first time they apply. However, 4 in 5 disability applicants have attorneys once they reach the appeals hearing stage. You likely won’t save any time or money by filing your first SSD claim on your own, without a lawyer.

How and When to Check Your SSD Claim Status

It takes, on average, 3-5 months to receive an answer back from the SSA about your first SSD claim. It’s understandable you might worry after a few months with no answer if you’ve never been through this process before. Knowing how and when to check your claim status shows the process is moving along, no matter how slowly.

Keeping tabs on your claim is important because the people working on it are only human, just like you. People, as we all know, are far from perfect and sometimes make mistakes. Checking on your status can let you know what records the SSA still needs to finish processing your SSD claim. That way, you can provide that information quickly and get a decision letter in the mail sooner rather than later.

While you might prefer weekly updates, a good rule of thumb is to check your claim status once a month. This ensures the Social Security Administration has enough time to work on it between your routine check-ins. It also gives you some time to respond to any requests for additional documentation, should they arise.

You can call the Social Security Administration anytime to check on the status of your SSD claim: 1-800-772-1213. Your local Social Security office can also provide you with regular status updates. Finally, you can check your Social Security Disability claim status online.

How Attorneys Can Help You Appeal a Denied SSD Claim

If the SSA denies your initial claim, an attorney can file a reconsideration request. This step gives you another chance at SSD claim approval without having to apply all over again. While you can appeal without a lawyer, you’re 3x more likely to win benefits if you have legal representation.

If your first appeal fails, you can then request a hearing before an administrative law judge. Like reconsideration, you need to request your appeals court date in writing no more than 60 days after your denial. The judge may require you to appear in person during your court date, or via video conferencing.

An attorney can help you prepare for the questions the judge might ask you during your hearing. One can also help you gather and submit more documentation that supports your SSD claim. This guidance can prove invaluable for SSD claim approval at this stage in the appeals process.

If the judge again denies your SSD claim, your attorney can then request an Appeals Council review. Beyond that, your only option is filing a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration in federal court. That is just as serious as it sounds, and it’s both costly and complicated. Having an attorney at this stage is no longer optional, and your chances of success are close to zero.

How to Get Free Claim Help from an Attorney Now

It’s possible to work with an attorney without paying any up-front costs. If you qualify, an attorney can review your SSD claim and explain your chances for benefit approval.

When you’re ready to take that step, click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:  

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.