If you think you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, consider taking the following steps to pursue a claim:
- See a doctor for your condition if you have not done so already. Without documented medical evidence, you have little chance to qualify as disabled.
- Apply for disability at your local Social Security Administration office or apply online. If you’re currently unable to do it yourself, get a close friend or relative to assist you. This should take about three to four hours.
- If you’re denied, contact an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability benefits.
Do you qualify as disabled?
To qualify as disabled you must meet the following conditions:
- You can’t do the work you did prior to becoming disabled.
- You’re unable to do any substantial/gainful activity – that is, any job in which you can earn $1,000 per month or more.
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year.
These are general guidelines. Each case is unique, so if you think you qualify, consult an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability benefits.
Why hire an attorney?
An attorney costs money, but many people have misconceptions about how much it costs, how and when the attorney gets paid, and what they can expect to receive in return. A qualified attorney…
- prescreens your situation to determine your chances of winning an appeal
- helps you establish realistic expectations
- gathers your medical records and reviews them for evidence to support your claim
- makes sure you meet SSA deadlines
- presents your case in a way that gives it the best chance to succeed
- knows how to cross-examine expert witnesses who may question your inability to work
- typically works on contingency – the attorney gets paid only if successful, and:
- SSA limits attorney compensation to no more than 25% of back payments due and caps the amount at $6,000 – you pay the lesser of the two amounts
- the attorney does not receive any percentage of future disability benefits
- may be able to streamline the process to get you your first check sooner
- may recommend other benefits to file for that you’re unaware of
Hiring the right attorney
Following are some guidelines for hiring a qualified attorney:
- Look for someone local. Local attorneys are more likely to meet with you individually and work with you to prepare your case and prepare you for your hearing.
- Choose an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability benefits. Someone who specializes in this area knows not only the law but also a lot about medicine and what qualifies a claimant as unable to work. 50–75% of the attorney’s cases should be in Social Security Disability. (Call several attorneys in your area to find out which attorneys specialize in Social Security Disability. If you call an attorney who doesn’t specialize in this area, ask who they would recommend.)
- Meet with a couple attorneys on your list. Many attorneys offer a free consultation. Meet with two or three attorneys to get a sense of which one you feel is most qualified and that you’re most
Photo by Mike Coughlan, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.