Are you wondering about your chances of winning disability with a lawyer? A recent study by the Government Accountability Office showed that claimants working with disability lawyers were three times more likely to succeed on their claim than those without.
Approximately two million people apply for disability benefits in the United States each year. Of those initial applications, roughly 37% are denied for technical (non-medical) reasons. Of the applications that meet the technical requirements, 62% are denied at the initial level, pushing claimants into the multi-step disability appeal process. After navigating through up to four levels of appeal, about half of applicants who met technical requirements and appealed their initial decision are approved at some point in the process.
In this article, we’ll break down what disability benefits are, how a lawyer can help, and the factors that might influence your chances of winning your case.
What Are Disability Benefits?
Federal disability benefits are granted to non-veteran applicants via two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs provide financial assistance for individuals with severe and persistent medical conditions that prevent them from working full-time, but they have different qualifying criteria.
SSDI is work-based, which means individuals pay into the program over time and accumulate work credits. To receive benefits, along with the medical qualifications that must be met, claimants must also have enough work credits to meet the technical (non-medical) criteria for the program.
In contrast, SSI is needs-based, and designed to provide financial assistance to disabled individuals with no work history and limited resources and means. While it’s possible for a person to qualify for both SSDI and SSI, it would be impossible for someone without enough work credits to receive SSDI, and they would seek out SSI only.
Disability benefits provide claimants with critical financial support. So long as they continue to meet the criteria for the program, they will receive monthly disability payments for the rest of their life.
How Can a Disability Lawyer Help?
Disability lawyers assist claimants with disability claims at every stage of the process. Some Social Security disability attorneys may have multiple practice areas while other attorneys focus exclusively on disability. Regardless, many claimants engage a disability lawyer to assist with their claim due to the higher success rates.
There are a few keys to these higher success rates that we’ll cover in more detail below. Here are a few ways a lawyer can improve your chances:
- Expert Advice: Disability lawyers know federal disability laws and regulations inside and out. A knowledgable lawyer guides claimants through the application process. They ensure all the necessary paperwork is filled out correctly and all deadlines are met. They can also offer advice on the best way to present your claim and advise you if there are concerns or qualification issues that may negatively impact your claim.
- Gathering Medical Evidence: To win a disability case, you’ll need to show medical evidence that proves your disability prevents you from working above the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) substantial gainful activity (SGA) level. For 2023, SGA is $1,470 per month for non-blind individuals. A lawyer can also help you understand SSA’s definition of disability and along with their team, assist with requesting medical evidence, organizing it and ensuring the claim is well supported.
- Navigating the System: The process of applying for disability benefits is complex. Missing a deadline or completing a form incorrectly can stall the process for months. Additionally, disability lawyers work with SSA field office teams, administrative law judges and their staffs on an ongoing basis. They understand SSA employee’s preferences for hearings, briefs, testimonies and applications and can ensure your claim continues moving forward with as little friction and delay as possible.
- Appeals: Finally, there are many stages in the disability process. If your initial application is denied (and most are), your disability lawyer can file appeals in a timely manner, present your claim effectively in front of an administrative law judge at hearing, and advise you on next steps.
Characteristics of Strong Disability Claims
Several factors can affect your chances of winning disability benefits with a lawyer:
- Medical Evidence: Strong medical evidence supporting your disability claim is crucial. This includes doctor’s reports, test results, and treatment records. Disability lawyers follow strict ethical and professional guidelines. They will not create evidence or embellish what cannot be supported by your treating medical providers so its important to have a record of medical treatment. If you do not have access to a doctor, a disability lawyer can likely connect you with free, community medical resources where you can seek out treatment.
- Work History: As we mentioned above, when applying for SSDI, the SSA will review your work history to ensure you have sufficient work credits. Your work history also becomes relevant when SSA considers whether you can adapt to a new vocation and work full-time or if your disability and work history prevents you from making a career change. Your disability lawyer and their case management team will work with you to complete an accurate work history report and include relevant details from your prior work to strengthen your claim.
- Consistency: Consistency in your statements and evidence is important. Your lawyer can help you present a consistent and clear picture of your disability and how it impacts your life. This is critical at the hearing level, when a judge may question you about your disabilities, and how they practically impact your daily life.
- Legal Knowledge: While some claimants work with social workers, or non-attorney representatives, disability lawyers have expertise and experience in disability law, in preparing arguments and in collecting and organizing evidence .
- Patience: The process of applying for disability benefits can take time. Having patience and being prepared for possible setbacks can help you stay strong throughout the process. Disability lawyers and their case managers help claimants set reasonable expectations for timelines and approval rates. Plus, they’re able to rebound and move their client’s claim forward quickly reducing delays.
Charlotte Disability Lawyers
This content is provided by Collins Price, PLLC, a disability law firm founded over a decade ago in North Carolina. We have successfully served thousands of claimants throughout the state, helping them gain access to the SSDI and SSI disability benefits they deserve. If you are applying for disability or have been recently denied and would like a free consultation on your claim, please contact our attorneys today. As always, there is no fee for the consultation or for our services unless we win your claim.