What Role Does a Social Security Lawyer Play in Handling My Claim?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
The social security disability claims process can be overwhelming, especially if you are trying to care for your health at the same time. While it is not a requirement to hire a social security lawyer, an experienced attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can easily navigate the various issues that may arise in the application or appeals process.
Understanding the role of a social security lawyer in your benefits claim could be crucial to the success of your application or appeal. There are many resources an experienced attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can offer to help ensure your chances of success.
Reviewing your claim
Many claimants may be disappointed after they file their first application and are rejected. This can be avoided if you have an experienced social security lawyer helping plan your case.
No matter where you are in the process, your attorney will thoroughly review your case and tell you whether you have a strong chance and whether it is worth pursuing the claim and determine the best approach for moving forward. He or she can also tell you whether there is anything you need to do before filing your claim, to better ensure your success.
A social security lawyer in Michigan can also review your claim after it has been denied. He or she can determine a strategy to help you win your claim on appeal.
Filing the application
The application for disability benefits needs to be completed carefully. There are many pieces of information required, including those pertaining to your employment history. If anything is missing, your claim may be denied.
A social security lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can review the application, making sure you have everything you need. If you are missing any critical documents or other evidence, he or she may be able to help you find what you need.
Your social security disability lawyer can also help ensure the filing is completed promptly. The process of approving a claim is slow, and without the assistance of an experienced attorney, you might wait longer than you need to and miss important deadlines.
Understanding medical evidence
Medical evidence is a crucial part of your case. Not only do you need to prove you have the condition you are claiming benefits for, but you must also show that it affects your ability to work.
An attorney with experience in disability cases, like Eileen Kroll, understands the evidence required to prove your claim is valid. She can review the evidence you have and determine whether anything is missing. Eileen recently negotiated a $9 million-dollar settlement for a brain injured man and a $3.8 million settlement for a brain injured child. She has extensive medical experience because she worked as a registered nurse early in her career so you can rest assured you will receive the highest quality representation if you experienced a medical injury.
Another important part an attorney plays is choosing which pieces of evidence to submit. You might not realize the importance of some pieces of medical documentation, such as a doctor’s note excusing you from work.
As well as deciding what to submit, an attorney can tell you what to leave out. It is important you only submit material directly related to your claim, without any unnecessary documents for the SSA to go through.
Understanding vocational requirements
The SSA uses technical terms to discuss your ability to work, or your “vocational” ability. They will determine whether you are capable of certain functions, such as climbing a flight of stairs. This information will then be used to make a decision.
Experienced social security disability lawyers like William E. Gray at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. understand medical conditions related to disability claims, and is familiar with the vocational standards of the SSA.
A lawyer can communicate with your doctor or medical provider on your behalf. He or she can consult with them about your condition and the records that have been provided. Crucially, they can also discuss your doctor’s supporting statement.
The statement from your doctor should support your claim, confirming your condition as a disability that prevents you from working. The information it includes, and the conclusion your doctor comes to can make a huge difference in your case. Your lawyer can help ensure the statement supports you.
A knowledgeable social security benefits lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. will understand the medical terms that should be used to reflect your condition. He or she may also be able to communicate more clearly with a doctor, speaking on a professional level.
If your doctor has doubts about whether to support your claim, your lawyer may be able to explain why you should qualify for benefits.
Communicating with SSA
Keeping in contact with the Social Security Administration throughout the claims process is important. Your lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. will take on this responsibility for you, checking on the status of your claim at periodic intervals by contacting the SSA office in Michigan.
If your claim goes to an appeal, your attorney can keep in contact with the appeals office, making sure they have all the information needed. This can help ensure you do not miss any important deadlines or communication.
Your lawyer will also be able to bring his or her expertise to the conversations with the SSA. He or she will understand all the information given and will know what questions to ask. He or she can then relay any pertinent information, updates, or instructions to you.
Filing an appeal
According to the Social Security Administration, fewer than 35% of applications are approved on the first attempt. If your claim is denied, you have 60 days in which to file an appeal. Many claimants, if they do not have legal representation, might miss this deadline. They may also neglect to include additional, helpful evidence when filing, especially since typically only the victim testifies at this stage. Missing medical records or depositions could result in delays or a rejected claim.
An attorney can take control of the appeal request, making sure you have submitted everything required. He or she can also check your paperwork to ensure there are no errors, which may have a big impact on your likelihood of success.
Navigating appeals process
The appeals process for disability claims follows certain steps, and your attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. is responsible for navigating them. Every stage of the process has specific requirements, each of which will be well known to an experienced attorney.
The first stage is to request a reconsideration of the original claim, which is rarely granted. Your claim is more likely to be heard at the next stage, a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This involves additional evidence and testimony.
Your attorney can oversee everything from filing for the appeal to the type of evidence provided. This ensures no mistakes are made, and you are adequately prepared.
Your income can be a factor in your claim, whether you are working part-time, or receiving worker’s comp. You cannot be denied SSDI benefits, but you also cannot earn more than $880 per month. At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. your attorney can help you navigate the income hurdles and if you are successful, arrange for your comp award to be pro-rated based on life-expectancy tables.
If your initial claim is denied, do not file a new claim because the person reviewing your case may deny your claim based on your prior application. It is better to go through the appeals process.
The evidence prepared for the hearing is very important to your chances of success. If your claim was denied, this might mean there was an issue with the evidence you submitted.
Your attorney can review the evidence before the appeal is filed, determining whether there were any substantial pieces of information left out. He or she might even be able to determine exactly why the claim was denied. This gives you an opportunity to submit the missing information.
A skilled social security lawyer will be familiar with the way medical evidence can be used to construct an argument. He or she can decide which pieces of evidence will be most useful when it comes to proving your qualification for benefits.
Knowledge of listings and grid
The SSA determines your disability through the use of two systems. The first involves a listing of standard qualifications for disability, each with a specific set of conditions to meet. The second is a grid system, in which your functional ability is matched with different levels of work.
If your disability meets the criteria for one of the standard listings, your claim might be approved more quickly. Your attorney can work with you to determine whether this is possible.
Many claimants in Michigan have to prove they qualify for benefits using the grid system. In this case, the role your attorney will play is reviewing the evidence on your condition and determining where it falls on the grid. He or she will then establish how to prove you qualify in this manner.
While hearings can be intimidating, they are standard procedures in Michigan and elsewhere. Your lawyer will prepare you, explaining what to expect and the types of questions you may be asked.
The questions will relate to your disability, as well as the way it affects your ability to do work. They can be very specific, such as “can you carry a gallon of milk?” Considering these questions in advance can help your testimony.
You are unlikely to be caught by surprise at the hearing with a lawyer to help you prepare. For example, your lawyer will ensure all the medical records are current and can be used in the hearing. Claimants without representation might not realize until the day of the hearing that this is expected of them.
Your lawyer can also coach you on the correct way to answer any questions you are asked. This will help ensure you explain yourself clearly, without becoming confused, and that every answer you give helps your case.
Representation at the hearing
Your social security lawyer will represent you throughout the hearing. There are a number of ways he or she can ensure you have the best chance at getting your appeal approved.
In addition to their tasks during the hearing, your attorney is there to support you. You can feel more confident with legal representation present, knowing you have a higher chance of succeeding.
It can also be reassuring to know that, during a highly stressful proceeding, you have an experienced professional on your side. If you are caught off guard by a question or a piece of testimony during the hearing, your lawyer will be prepared to deal with it.
Arguing your case
Although your disability is determined using medical evidence, your success at a hearing can depend on the way that evidence is used. Your attorney will base his or her argument on the medical records provided, as well as your functional abilities.
There are a few arguments that are often used at hearings. Your attorney may argue that your condition should be considered equal to a listing, or that you have a combination of conditions that mean you cannot work. He or she will know which track will have the best chance of success.
Each of these arguments involves a knowledge of the SSA’s vocational and disability guidelines. Your attorney’s familiarity with both can help him or her prepare for any questions or arguments against your claim.
Helping your testimony
You are required to give testimony about your condition. Part of your attorney’s preparation will be making sure you know what you will be asked, so you are ready with clear answers.
In some cases, however, the questions might not allow you to talk in depth about an important part of your condition. Your attorney can ask you questions as well, however, highlighting a particular fact to be considered by the ALJ.
Your attorney can also help you to answer questions about your employment history. For example, when asked whether your previous job required you to walk every day, you might answer “no.” Your attorney, knowing more about your work than the ALJ, could then ask if you are ever required to walk, the answer to which may be “yes, on days when I have to visit different departments.”
Defend against arguments
The hearing might involve testimony by a Vocational Expert (VE) and a Medical Expert (ME). They may argue against the case made by your attorney. The ME will give an opinion on your condition. The VE will give an opinion on whether you can still work.
Your attorney can cross examine either of these experts, to strengthen your case further. He or she might bring up a point the expert did not include or ask the expert how the evidence was used to come to a particular conclusion.
Filing further actions
If your appeal is denied, you have the right to appeal to the Appeals Council. A social security attorney will be familiar with the process required for this. He or she can file the appeal for you and keep in contact with the Appeals Council to track its progress.
If the case is accepted for review, he or she can determine what evidence and arguments are needed for your case to succeed.
Should the Appeals Council refuse to review the case, or if they deny your claim after hearing it, you can file a civil suit. Your attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. will need to file the suit with a Federal court, against the SSA.
Advice and guidance
There are many ways in which a disability benefits claim may fail. While your attorney can take care of the practical work involved, the way you behave can also affect your chances. Your attorney may be able to offer advice on how to ensure you do not make any mistakes in this area.
For example, some claimants might believe they should not take the prescribed treatment for their condition. You may worry that any improvement will mean you no longer qualify for benefits. Your attorney, however, would be able to tell you that if you do not follow the treatment prescribed, your claim will be denied.
In this way, the expertise of a Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. social security lawyer can help ensure a smoother application process.
Due to our firm’s vast legal experience in medical malpractice and personal injury litigation, we can guide you through the application or appeal process. For a free consultation call our firm toll free at 866-MICH-LAW. There is no obligation for a case evaluation, and no fee is charged unless a recovery is made.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.