We are often asked, “Can a Social Security disability attorney speed up my case?”
The answer is yes. There are many advantages to having an attorney represent you in the Social Security Disability process, from the initial application to appeals. Below we will discuss several ways that having a disability attorney represent you might help speed up the application and appeal process.
One thing to keep in mind: there is no “fast-track” for claimants who are represented by an attorney. However, experienced attorneys do know a few things that might help you get a decision on your claim faster.
Helping You Get Approved In the “First Round” or Initial Application
The fastest way to receive Social Security disability benefits is win your claim on the initial application (rather than on appeal, which can take several months or even over one year). An attorney’s experience in handling claims and in knowing what Social Security is looking for can help increase your chances of winning at the initial application stage. Not all attorneys handle initial applications; however, we do handle initial claims here at the Ortiz Law Firm.
If you do find an attorney to represent you at the initial application stage, the lawyer can:
- assist you in filling out the disability application so that it clearly demonstrates how you “meet a listing” (or equal a listing), or how you are not able to perform any work on a full time basis;
- help gather your medical records and other evidence to show your medical conditions;
- obtain opinions from your treating doctors or medical providers on your resulting level of impairment and limitations.
Social Security looks for specific evidence of impairments in the medical records and medical opinions. An experienced attorney can educate your treating physician on such terminology so that the doctor can give opinions in a format generally accepted by the Social Security Administration. A medical provider may also alert Social Security if you have a terminal illness, making your case eligible for expedited processing.
Typically, however, an attorney will only take your case at this early stage if he or she thinks you have a good chance of winning.
Getting Your Claim Approved in an “On The Record” Decision
If your original application for benefits is denied, the next fastest way to receive benefits is to request an “on the record” (OTR) decision while the claim is pending a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At this stage a Social Security disability attorney can:
- write a clear and concise brief that satisfies Social Security’s requirements and presents arguments as to why you should receive benefits;
- update any recent medical records since you applied for benefits;
- continue to try to obtain information from physicians and other medical providers to answer questions about your condition that may not already be in your medical records;
- write a proposed decision that, if approved by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned to your claim, saves time since you do not have to wait for the ALJ to write the decision; and
- speak to the Attorney Adjudicator to discuss the specific merits of your case or to negotiate your disability onset date.
Approval at the ALJ Hearing Stage
If your request for an OTR decision is denied, your case will scheduled for a hearing before an ALJ. If you are applying for SSI and you are in dire financial straights or facing homelessness, an attorney can write a “dire need” letter for you, which can get your hearing date scheduled sooner than normal.
At the hearing, an experienced disability attorney can improve your chances of winning by:
- preparing you to answer questions that the Judge may ask you at the hearing so that you can clearly describe the specifics of your medical impairments and limitations; and
- work with you to obtain written witnesses statements from your friends and family, describing your medical condition and resulting limitations.
While there are no magical shortcuts to speed up the processing of your Social Security Disability benefit claim, an attorney can help you increase your likelihood of being approved for benefits at the early stages. This means less time waiting to receive your benefits.
Mr. Ortiz is a Board Certified Social Security Disability Attorney in Pensacola, Florida. He offers free case evaluations. Call (850) 308-7833 to schedule an appointment today.