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Do I Need a Lawyer for Social Security Disability?

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What happens when you have been injured in an accident or due to someone else's negligence and can no longer work? Loss of employment and its subsequent loss of income, as well as mounting medical bills, can create a great deal of difficulty and hardship for your family. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines disability benefits for individuals who have been injured and cannot continue to work because of these injuries. However, the approval process sometimes requires that you enlist the services of an attorney in order to receive these benefits. 

How the SSA Defines "Disability"

The SSA has a very clear-cut definition of disability, and you must meet the conditions outlined in this definition:

  • You are unable to do the work that you did before
  • You are unable to do any other work due to your condition
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or will result in your death

If you meet these conditions, you may pursue Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI.

What is the process for applying for SSDI?

In order to be considered for SSDI, you must first file a claim with your local Social Security office. The application process can be done in person, over the phone, or online; choose the method with which you are most comfortable. Regardless of your choice, expect the process to be lengthy.

How long does the process take?

After your initial application, the process can take several months. At the end of that time, you may find that your application has been denied. Don't panic - nearly 70% of disability claims are denied after the initial application. If this happens, you don't need to reapply. Instead, you will need to file an appeal, and possibly more than one appeal. This appeal will likely require you to appear at a hearing before an administrative law judge in order to make your case; it can take up to a year or more before this hearing takes place.

When do I need to apply?

Because the process for determining your eligibility for SDDI is so lengthy, you will want to file a claim as soon as possible. This is where good communication with your doctor is essential. Keep copies of your medical records and any information regarding your disability, so that you can quickly access this information when you need it.

Your Attorney's Role

Hiring an attorney for the initial claim may be a good idea, particularly to help establish your disability at the outset. If you are among the 70% of people whose initial claims are denied, you will need an attorney to help you navigate the appeals process. Still, you may be reluctant to hire an attorney, believing that it will require an outlay of cash you do not have. If you have been out of work for a period of time, money can be tight, but it doesn't have to be a barrier to getting the benefits you deserve. Because your attorney will be compensated out of the past due benefits, there is no out-of-pocket expense necessary to begin your case. An attorney experienced in SSDI claims will construct a case that will include your medical condition, past work experience, age, education, and any other skills you may have that are transferable to another type of work. Your attorney will also take into consideration the taxes you have paid into the Social Security system, based on your age and years of employment. All of these factors come together to build a case in your favor, and with your attorney's experience you may be awarded SSDI in a more timely manner.

Where do I start?

Contacting an attorney experienced in Social Security Disability cases should be among your first steps once your doctor has determined that your injury will likely prevent you from returning to work. The sooner you file a claim, the better, and your attorney will help you to keep the process moving along. Don't wait for financial difficulties to hit your family - if you've been injured and can no longer work, contact Gerling today!

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