How to Work with a Lawyer (New Applications)

Artwork: Robin Mead

Lawyers don’t get paid unless you win. Some people think this is a great thing. It is not a great thing.

Lawyers get a percent of your backpay. The sooner you win, the less money they get. If every client got approved in three months, the lawyer would probably go bankrupt.

Most lawyers do little or nothing to improve your application in the first two years.

They will meet with you, answer your questions, make you feel better, fill out the basic paperwork, and then wait about two years and see what happens.

If your case wins on it’s own, great! But most of the time it does not. Then you wait two years for a hearing, and at that point, your lawyer may start to be a lot more helpful.

If you want the best chance to be approved sooner than this, it is great to try to do as much as you can to improve your case yourself or with help from a friend or family. (You can also hire a lawyer if it makes you happy to have one).

Sleepy Girl Lawyer Tips

πŸ€ You do not need a lawyer for an initial application. You can get one if you want one.

πŸ€ You can hire a lawyer or a “non-attorney representative or advocate.” They both do the same thing.

πŸ€ There is no charge up front for a lawyer or advocate. They only get paid if you are approved.

πŸ€ There are many many (many many) things you can do to increase your chances of being approved. 90% of these things are things a lawyer won’t do for you. You can do them yourself or ask a friend or family member for help:Β How to Greatly, Greatly (Greatly!) Improve Your Disability Application

πŸ€ Many people feel more peace of mind having a lawyer at the beginning. If it will give you peace of mind, it is definitely worth it. You can hire a lawyer and also take steps to improve your application on your own!

πŸ€ If you are to ill to fill out a form or make a phone call, and you do not have anyone who can help you, trying to get a lawyer can be a good idea. Or you can make an appointment with a caseworker at Social Security who will ask you questions and fill out the basic paperwork for you.

πŸ€Β In most cases, finding the right doctor is approximately 10 billion times more important than finding the right lawyer.Β At the end of the day, your medical records will probably be what matters the most.

πŸ€ The best doctor is a doctor who understands how sick you are, believes you are disabled, and is willing to fill out some disability paperwork for you.

πŸ€Β  If your doctor does not think you are disabled or does not support your disability application, there is not going to be very much a lawyer can do. Lawyers can’t just magically make your medical records change.

πŸ€ Some lawyers do not collect your medical records for a new application. The will wait until the hearing or appeal. If you think your lawyer is collecting your records, please double check. Unless you physically see the records with your own eyes, and hold them in your own hands, it’s safest to assume your lawyer has not gotten them. Missing records are a common reason for early denials.

πŸ€ Lawyers can be very helpful with appeals and hearings. That will happen in two or three years from now. If you think that you will be appealing for the next two years, you might as well get your lawyer now. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to get one early.

πŸ€ Most lawyers are upfront about this and many lawyers tell their clients right from the start that they can expect this will take 2-3 years in most cases. Some lawyers won’t take cases at the beginning.

πŸ€ During your initial application, your lawyer cannot access your Social Security file electronically (later, when you appeal, they will be able to). Right now, your lawyer does not know any more than you do about your file. If you want to find out what is there, and make sure nothing got misplaced or went missing, you will need to contact Social Security and check yourself.

πŸ€ If you are homeless or may become homeless look into The Amazing SOAR Program. They are much, much faster than lawyers and their success rate is much, much higher than lawyers. Most SOAR programs require a history of mental illness.

πŸ€ Some nonprofit organizations offer free assistance with disability paperwork. Inquire at local homeless services agencies, senior centers, disability groups, legal aide programs, and agencies on aging (even if you are young).

πŸ€ Some lawyers don’t take initial applications. Don’t worry if this happens, you will be able to find one later if you need to appeal. You can also try contacting several different lawyers to see.

πŸ€ Here is a list with some good places to find lawyers.

“I Have a Friend Who Used a Lawyer and Got Approved In Six Months!”

Ask your friend what the lawyer did to get the case approved. Ask your friend if the lawyer actually did anything besides fill out some forms.

We ask this questionΒ a lot and so far the answer is always the same: “My lawyer filled out the forms. I have no idea if they did anything. I just know I won, so I must have the best lawyer in the world!”

Bottom line: You cannot win your case by a lawyer filling out a form. It may help things go more smoothly, and it may be a small help, but it is not the reason you win.

“I Have a Friend Who Got Denied. Then She Got a Lawyer and Got Approved!”

Yes, a lot of people report that a lawyer was very helpful with appealing. Not every time, but often. Your appeal hearing will be in 2-3 years.

Will a Lawyer Tell Me If There are Problems?

Many lawyers do not read and collect your medical records for the first two years. You really do not want to wait two years to find out there is a problem with your records. If at all possible, try to do this yourself.

This is very common and we have met at least ten billion people who were shocked to discover that their lawyer wasn’t collecting and reading their records all along. Here’s Patty’s story: How Patty’s Lawyer Never Told Her What She Needed to Know

Last week we hear from someone whose lawyer did not read her medical records until the week before her hearing. When she showed up for her hearing, the lawyer said “Your records are not strong enough. You can’t win. I suggest you postpone.” Then the lawyer left and the woman went to her hearing alone.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a New Application?

You don’t need a lawyer or Social Worker when you first apply, and many people who were approved early on applied on their own.

On the other hand, many people feel a lot better if they have a lawyer or Social Worker helping them. People report that this helped them feel less stressed and less confused by the forms. So go get one if you want one, but if you can also take extra steps yourself to improve your application, this will help your chances of a quicker approval.

Why Do I Need to Work With My Doctor. Won’t My Lawyer Do This?

No. Your lawyer will never talk to your doctor. In most cases, someone from your lawyers office will send a fax to someone from your doctor’s office and ask for your medical records. This will probably happen two years from now. That is IT.

Social Security will also never talk to your doctor. If you want your doctor’s help, your going to have to go meet with your doctor. It’s the only way.

There are many things you can do to work with your doctor to create great medical records, you can do it yourself!


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