Filing For Disability: Should You Hire An Attorney, An Advocate Or Do It Yourself?

Struggling with a disability is a difficult time for anyone. Social Security benefits are designed to help those individuals who are unable to work due to a disability. However, proving your disability is becoming harder and harder, so should you hire an attorney, an advocate or do it yourself?

Hiring an Attorney

For most people who file for disability, they are initially denied. This forces them to participate in a disability hearing, which allows them to prove their case. Unfortunately, most claimants don't know the first thing about preparing a disability hearing, so their chances of winning greatly diminish.

If you hire an attorney who specializes in disability, they'll have the knowledge and experience surrounding Social Security disability rules and regulations. On top of that, they know what the judge wants to hear or see in regards to each medical condition.

Another benefit of hiring an attorney is that they have a greater chance of getting you more back pay than if you went it alone. The attorney has the skills to argue for a better onset date or when you developed this disability. Generally, you'll get retro payments dating back to the onset date.

The downside with hiring an attorney is the cost. Most people fighting for disability don't want to pay a mountain of lawyer fees. Luckily, however, disability lawyers are only paid if you win. In most cases, if you win your claim, they get a certain percentage of your back pay benefits.

Hiring and Advocate

An advocate is a non-attorney specialist. They don't have as much overall education or training as an attorney, but hiring an advocate carries many of the same benefits as hiring an attorney. For starters, they only deal with disability cases, so they still possess the knowledge and experience to successfully fight for your payments and a good onset date. As with an attorney, most advocates are not paid unless you win your case, and they generally cost the same as an attorney.  

There are some disadvantages to hiring an advocate instead of an attorney. Firstly, if you lose your first disability hearing, an advocate cannot appeal on the federal district court level, so if you want to continue, you'll need to hire an attorney anyway. Secondly, if you are dissatisfied with your advocate, there is no one to complain to. However, with an attorney, you can file an official grievance.

Doing it Yourself

The only real benefit to fighting your disability claim on your own is that you get to keep all the money if you win. With no attorney or advocate fees, all the back pay is yours. However, that's if you manage to win. True, some claimants are able to take their claim to court and win on their own, but the fact of the matter is that this is the exception and not the rule. The chances of winning when you're alone drastically decrease for many reasons.

Firstly, there's a lot of legwork to prepare for a hearing. You need to gather a complete list of your medical history with absolutely no gaps. Not only will an attorney or advocate do this for you, they'll do it faster, and they'll be able to tell you if your records need to be updated. Another piece of legwork you'll have to do on your own is getting doctor's opinions. Doctors are busy, and they may not take your request as seriously as a lawyer's.

Another piece of the puzzle you'll have to do on your own is prepare yourself for questioning at the hearing. Without a professional to work with you on your answers, you're more likely to get nervous and make a mistake. Lastly, at the hearing, without a lawyer or advocate, you'll have to question the vocational expert yourself. Do you have the knowledge to determine which questions will help or hurt you?

Money is the only benefit for fighting your case alone, and that's only if you win. An attorney and advocate are more likely to win your case and get you the money you deserve. For more information about disability hearings, contact an attorney and discover more about the process in your area today.