My Personal Opinion
The following is based on +60 years of experience and thousands of successful claims.
Probably the first thing most social security disability applicants want answered is the amount of legal fee that is going to be charged! The fact of the matter is that no fee is allowed to be charged in a social security disability case unless the claimant receives a favorable decision. Then, and only then, can a legal fee be charged. And the fee is the same whether a lawyer or non-lawyer is representing the claimant. The fee is 25% of past due benefits not to exceed $6,000.00. So the claimant pays no more for an experienced attorney, such as myself, who knows the law, and has the respect of the administrative law judges for being able to support their cases with sufficient legal evidence and legal authority, and appeal an unfavorable decision. SO PLEASE EMPLOY A REAL ATTORNEY WHO CAN SHOW YOU THEIR LEGAL CREDENTIALS IN WINNING SUCH CASES BY PAST PERFORMANCE!
It is very important for every person considering filing a social security disability claim to know what is involved in winning. First, a claimant must be out of work for 12 continuous months, suffering from determinable physical and/or mental conditions, and not be able to perform substantial gainful work activity as defined by social security vocational rules. To best prove what is required by law, the claimant should research local attorneys who handle such cases on a regular basis. A check should be made with family, friends, and coworkers to see if they know or have heard of a local attorneys who have successfully represented someone in the community. Then inquire of each attorney as to their qualifications. Ask them how many such cases they handle yearly. Ask them if they keep up with the win loss records of the judges so as to be able to inform you about the record of the judge assigned to your case. I classify administrative law judges in three categories--Santa Clause, Strict, and Scrooge. A Santa Clause judge will approve almost all the claims the attorney represents before that judge. A strict judge will require the medical evidence to show serious medical problems, a good steady and consistent work record and usually have reservations about psychological disabilities. The scrooge judge will deny many more claims than they approve despite statistical evidence that shows more than half of all claimants who file claims are disabled as defined by the social security law and rules. Thus the winning attorney must know about all the judges to prepare the case and evidence to win even before the strictest judge. Also, the attorney should fully interview the claimant soon after employment, be able to recommend doctors and clinics if the claimant is unable to pay for medical services, and outline to the claimant what is required to establish a social security disability claim, because many judges do most of the questioning of the claimant.
Amazingly, social security cases do not require a law license to represent claimants. You will see and hear advertisements referring to the person offering to take your social security disability case as a "social security claimant's representative." If they do not say they are a lawyer then the most likely are not. GET YOU A REAL LAWYER--IT DOES NOT COST YOU ONE DIME MORE! Thus, many former social security office workers and managers leave social security employment and begin to handle social security disability cases. They call themselves "social security claimant representatives," and they do not tell the clients they are not licensed attorneys. You also need to know that both lawyers and non-lawyers advertise for disability cases and many times do not even intend to handle the cases personally but employ young and inexperienced attorneys and non-attorneys to really handle the cases. Further many of those advertising are not even in the location where your claim will be heard by a judge and just send the young representatives to meet the claimant at the hearing office on the hearing date. I constantly see people waiting for their hearing who do not even recognize the person who is to represent them until introduced. Scrooge judges know the attorneys who successfully appeal their denials and those attorneys have much better success rates before scrooge judges.The judges also know that non-attorney claim representatives more than likely do not know how to protect the record of evidence for appeal as licensed attorneys.Judges are also more likely to bully the non-attorney claim representative than a licensed and experienced attorney. MY ADVISE IS TO EMPLOY ONLY A LICENSED ATTORNEY WHO HAS THE NECESSARY LEGAL KNOWLEDGE, KNOWLEDGE ABOUT JUDGES, AND EXPERIENCE IN SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY CASES AS OUTLINED.
Many claimants employ attorneys and claim representatives by responding to television and billboard advertisements. The advertisements are by both attorneys and non-attorneys who often never even meet the claimant until a few minutes before the hearing. They look through the DVD given them of the claimant's records at the hearing office and have a short interview, then go into the hearing and hope the judge approves the claim based on what is already in the file. I call these "hand-holding" representatives, as about all they do is go into the hearing, with minimal preparation, do not say much at the hearing, and hope the claim is approved. I personally interview each and every client at the beginning of employment and then again at least once after the hearing date is set. I explain fully what the judge hearing the case will be expecting as to medical evidence and testimony to approve their claim. I explain how the particular judge prefers to conduct the hearing and the questions that probable will be asked about personal life, work, treatment, medications, pain, types of jobs held over the last 15 years. I also explain why a vocational expert will testify and the jobs that the claimant will have to convince the judge they can no longer perform full time, based on their age, education and remaining functional capacities.
My son and I welcome any and all inquiries about your social security disability claim. If we are unable to assist you because of geographical limitations, we will refer you to an experienced attorney in your area who we know is an experienced and successful attorney in such claims.
We have been handling social security disability cases for over 60 combined years--me plus 40 and my son plus 20. We will put our winning percentages in these cases up against anyone.
Since the Social Security law is federal, the same law and rules apply in every State we can advise and represent you wherever you might live in this GREAT U.S.A.
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