Does Having an Attorney Determine Whether You Win or Lose Your Social Security Disability Case?

Did you know you can increase your odds of winning your Social Security (SSA) Disability case by more than 50% if you are represented by an attorney? Simply put, that’s a dramatic difference and one that every Social Security disability applicant should heed.

Congressional and SSA’s own statistics confirm this statement is true. The statistic came to light in November 2001, during Congressional testimony provided by Congressman Robert T. Matsui of California. During the hearing Congressman Matsui provided the following testimony:

“Professional representation is a valuable-and indeed vital-service. The disability determination process is complex. Claimants without professional representation appear to be far less likely to receive the benefits to which they are entitled. For example, in 2000, 64% of claimants represented by an attorney, but only 40% of those without one, were awarded benefits at the hearing level.”[1]

At the same hearing, Congressman E. Clay Shaw, Jr. of Florida provided the following testimony:

“As many of you know, filing for Social Security benefits-especially disability benefits-is so complicated that many claimants must hire attorneys to guide them through the process.” [2]

Please understand I am not suggesting that you must have an attorney in order to win your disability case. People can and do win their cases on their own. In fact, SSA does not require you to have an attorney, you can represent yourself; but why on earth would you? Congressional and SSA’s own statistics show dramatic differences in the outcomes of cases depending on whether an attorney is involved.

I have debated for years on whether to write an article on why one should hire a disability attorney. I did not want the article to be viewed as self-serving for either myself or my profession. I am aware of the unfortunate stature attorneys hold in our society, some of which is deserved. I always enjoy the look in a person’s eyes when they learn I am an attorney; it is clear they are searching their mind to share the latest attorney joke…and most are very funny!

However, the testimony of Congressmen Matsui and Shaw confirms what SSA and many disability attorneys have known for years. With such a compelling statistic, it is my hope this article is viewed as educational, rather than self-serving.

So you know the difference a disability attorney can make in your case…what can do you do about it? For those of you who are now considering hiring an attorney, let me provide you with some basic information to assist you in your decision.

1. You only pay an Attorney’s fee if you win your Case!

The number one question on people’s minds is, “How can I afford an attorney when I am not working?” The answer is simple…you only pay the attorney a fee if you win your case. You do not pay an attorney upfront. Generally, every disability attorney will represent you on a contingency fee basis. Simply put, this means you do not pay an attorney’s fee unless you win your case. Thus, everyone seeking disability benefits can afford an attorney. The question you should be asking yourself is “can I afford not to be represented by an attorney?”

2. General information regarding the attorney’s fees

The SSA and federal law set the attorney’s fees in disability cases. The standard fee agreement most attorneys use states the attorney’s fee is contingent upon winning your case. The fee is 25% of all past due benefits for you and your family, up to a maximum of $5,300, or whichever is less. Some attorneys may use a fee agreement which provides for a maximum fee of $7,000.

It is worth noting that on February 1, 2002, SSA increased the maximum standard fee amount to $5,300 from $4,000. This is the first time the fee has been increased since 1990 and simply represented a cost of living adjustment.

Thus, the attorney’s fees are usually only a fraction of the benefits you receive; depending on the amount of your past due benefits, it can be a very small fraction.

3. What is my case worth if I win?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors including…how long you have been disabled, when or if you will ever return to work, the amount of your monthly benefit and whether you have eligible dependents.

For example, if you are 45 years old, your monthly benefit amount is $1,000, and you do not return to work before age 65; your case can easily be worth $250,000! This amount does not include the value of the Medicare or Medicaid insurance you will be eligible for after being found disabled. As many of you know, the price of medical insurance in middle age, with pre-existing medical conditions, can be staggering and not affordable. This of course assumes that an insurance company is willing to insure you.

4. Why you increase your odds of winning your case if you hire a Disability Attorney

There are many reasons hiring an attorney can significantly increase the odds of winning your case. One significant reason is that disability attorneys understand the complicated laws and regulations that determine success or failure. Two questions I always ask potential clients are, “Do you know what you need to prove in order to win your case?” and “If you do not know, how are you going to go about proving it?

You should hire an attorney who specializes in Social Security disability law. Furthermore, I believe it is important to hire an attorney who has expertise in representing people with your type of diagnosis. It is important that your attorney believes in your case and that they can win it. I suggest you ask the attorney how much experience they have with your type of diagnosis and how often do they win? Any disability attorney should be willing to provide you with this information.

5. What an Attorney should do to increase the odds of winning your case

From the beginning, the attorney should set forth a strategy that you both of you should follow to win your case. It is critical to understand what is necessary to prove your case and how you will go about winning it. The sooner you know this, the sooner you can take steps to execute the strategy and thereby increase your odds of winning. Thus, you should consult with and hire an attorney either when you file your claim or as soon thereafter as possible.

Based on my experience in representing clients nationwide (remember Social Security is federal law and not state specific); literally none of them had a strategy or plan on how to win their case before they hired me. This is important because most of them were simply “doing whatever SSA told them to do” while their claim was being processed. This included seeing SSA’s doctors for an examination that often results in a denial of their claim.

It is important to understand that SSA is only obligated to investigate your case and is not charged with approving it. I am not suggesting that SSA denies every claim; I’m simply stating that my experience after having successfully represented many clients whose claims were previously denied by SSA because evidence was not obtained, not reviewed or SSA focused on what it wanted to in order to support a denial.

In conclusion, if you are contemplating filing a claim for SSA Disability benefits, I encourage you to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to help you understand the process. The consultation should not cost you anything except your time. By understanding the process and having a strategy, you will significantly increase your odds of winning your case.

Congressional and Social Security’s statistics do not lie – it is penny wise and pound foolish not to hire a disability attorney.

[1] November 16, 2001 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Testimony of Honorable Robert T. Matsui of California, regarding the Attorney Fee Payment System Improvement Act 2001.

[2] November 16, 2001 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Testimony of Honorable E. Clay Shaw of Florida, regarding the Attorney Fee Payment System Improvement Act 2001.

If You Need a Great Attorney, This Is the Way to Go

Are you in need of a great Wisconsin attorney? If you are from Wisconsin and need a great attorney, Madison WI is the best way to go. The state of Wisconsin has few cities and Madison is your best bet if you are looking for a great attorney.

Whoever attorney you would hire, there is no guarantee that you will win the case. However, if you will hire an attorney from Madison, you will surely have higher chances of winning the case. This city is known for having some of the best attorneys in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

When you are in need of a great Wisconsin attorney, Madison WI is the best place for you to visit. Regardless of the kind of crime or charges that you are facing, you could surely find the best attorneys in this city. From insurance claims to DUI and from drug possessions to murder, the law firms in Madison have so much to offer.

As the home of many great attorneys in the Midwest, you would surely find a lot of good attorneys in Madison. Choosing may be a bit hard so here are some characteristics of attorneys that you may opt to compare when searching for an attorney in Madison.

First, you should look for their experiences. Look at their education background and the courts where they were trained. You should also look for their years of service. Some law firms claim to have decades of experience. Check if these years of experience are collective or not. Choosing an attorney with the highest years of experience may be a good option but not the sole basis of legal excellence. For instance, most old attorneys surely have more years of experience in trials but there are also new attorneys who could be aggressive and great in representing their clients. Knowing their backgrounds is definitely a must if you want to get the best attorney.

Second, you should also look for the specialties of the attorneys. There are some attorneys that could provide quality legal service to many fields but there are some who specialize in certain fields. For instance, there are some attorneys who specialize in insurance claims while others would be the great choice for DUI or drug possession. Most attorneys and law firms in Madison have websites nowadays and there are profiles of attorneys. It will be much easier for you to compare and choose the attorney who could provide the best legal guidance and service for you.

Third, you should also look for the satisfaction of the attorney’s previous clients. It is normal for most attorneys to lose some cases. However, great Madison attorneys must be able to reduce the charges or penalties for their losing client. This may include reducing the days to be spent in jail or reducing the monetary penalty.

Lastly, you should also consider the legal fee. There are many attorneys that ask for low fee but if you would want quality legal service and affordable rate offers from a Wisconsin attorney, Madison WI is the best way to go. When you need a Wisconsin attorney, Madison WI has the most professional, most aggressive and most guiding ones.

Insider Tips for Choosing Your Divorce Attorney or Mediator

Whether you’re a man or woman, the dumper or dumpee, one of the very first things you probably realized you needed to do to get divorced is that you need to hire an attorney. If you’re like most people, you probably asked a friend or family member who’s been divorced who they used and then promptly hired that attorney. It wasn’t until after you’d already plunked down your retainer that you had any idea of what working with this attorney would be like.

If this sounds like you, you might be in for some surprised. This article will help you to better educate yourself about what you can and should expect from your attorney. AND how to select a new one if you decide to adjust course on your representation.

If, however, you’ve not yet selected an attorney, then READ THIS BEFORE you retain one.

STEP 1: Develop your short-list of attorneys. You need to interview (yes, interview) at least 3 attorneys before deciding whom you want to represent you. Go ahead and ask your friends and family for referrals, if and only if, your friends and family felt comfortable with their attorney.

STEP 2: Decide on the questions you want to ask your short-list of attorneys. One of my attorney friends wrote a great article for my website – “How to Choose an Attorney”. You can check out her article on my website with the link below. In addition to the questions she suggests you use to interview your short list of attorneys, I also suggest you ask about the minimum billing increment. Attorneys typically bill by the hour for their services and have a minimum billing increment. What this means is that if an attorney has a minimum billing increment of 15 minutes and they receive a call from a client that lasts for 10 minutes, the attorney will bill their client for 15 minutes of time.

STEP 3: Schedule the interviews. Attorneys are busy people and you might not be able to get in to see them as quickly as you’d like. You probably knew this already on some level, but sometimes having the reminder helps.

STEP 4: Prepare for the interviews by getting yourself a notebook that you use to track the answers each of the attorneys provide to the interview questions you decided on in STEP 2.

STEP 5: Interview each of the attorneys on your short list. The key here is to remember that the attorney will work for you. You have the responsibility to make sure you’re choosing differently if your first choice doesn’t work. If you decide you need to choose differently, just start at STEP 1 again.

STEP 6: Select and retain the attorney you believe you will be best able to work with during your divorce. Once you’ve completed all of the interviews, allow yourself some time to review all the notes you took during each interview and then choose your attorney.

Choosing the correct attorney to represent you when you divorce is vitally important. Divorce changes your life in ways most people can’t predict. Because of the changes, you’re going to want someone in your corner who has YOUR best interests in mind. By following the 6 steps above you’ll be able to find the best attorney for you.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

If you’ve not yet hired an attorney, follow the steps above. I rarely believe it’s a good idea to divorce without the help of an attorney or mediator. OK, I’ve not yet seen a case where it’s a good idea to divorce pro se. There are just too many things that can get misinterpreted in filing paperwork on your own. So, please, do yourself a favor and save future headaches by working with a professional now.

If you’ve already hired an attorney, remember your attorney works for you. It’s not unusual for me to hear stories from clients that their relationship with their attorney isn’t working. (These are the ones who hired me AFTER hiring their attorney.) What I remind them of is the fact that their attorney works for them If your attorney isn’t representing you the way you expect, then schedule some time to discuss your expectations. Most attorneys are more than willing to understand how best to serve their clients. Oftentimes, it only takes a simple conversation to clear the air and get things back on the correct path again.