A lawyer can help improve your chances at winning disability benefits. Here are some reasons why:
Better preparation. Your lawyer has appeared at many hearings, sometimes hundreds or thousands of cases. He or she will be able to explain specifically what to expect from the judge assigned to your case and he/she will be able to prepare you to testify effectively.
Less Stress for You. Most likely you have not seen or participated in a disability hearing. If you appear without a lawyer you will be expected to speak and act on your own behalf. Your lawyer will handle the procedural elements of your case so you can focus on testifying clearly and accurately.
Time Management. Disability judges are busy people. Most judges schedule hearings every 45 minutes to one hour. At your hearing you need to present your evidence, make your argument, cross examine witnesses and go home. Cases presented by pro se claimants (or by inexperienced lawyers) will always take longer and disrupt the judge’s schedule. Some judges will be patient about this, while others will not be happy at all.
Here are some of the tasks that a lawyer will handle for you. Would you know how to handle these matters on your own?
- identify which medical records are not in the claims file and request copies of these records from your medical provider (once you request a hearing, Social Security does not update your medical record)
- organize and submit updated medical records using the bar code provided by the hearing office
- obtain non-medical evidence such as employment records, school records or affidavits from witnesses
- decide on a theory of disability to present to the judge
- prepare and present an opening statement
- prepare and file a pre-hearing brief setting out the theory of your case
- preparing direct examination questions that focus on the main issue of your case – why you can no longer work reliably
- prepare hypothetical questions for the vocational witness
- cross examine the vocational witness and/or medical witness in your case