How a Lawyer Can (and can’t) Help Your Disability Application

Artwork: Robin Mead

Here’s where to get a lawyer, when to get a lawyer, what to expect from a lawyer, what a lawyer will do for you, and (important!) what only you can do for yourself.

Where Do I Find a Lawyer or Representative?

Here is How and Where To Find a Good Lawyer

Alternately, here is How To Apply For Disability Without a Lawyer

Is Hiring a Lawyer Expensive?

It’s free right now. After you are approved, a lawyer or representative will receive part of your backpay (25% up to $6,000).

This arrangement is convenient, but also problematic. If you are approved quickly, your lawyer makes very little money. If it takes three years to get approved, your lawyer makes a lot more money.

Sleepy Girl Super Special Secret Lawyer Tip

The right kind of medical documentation is the number one most important thing you need to help your case. Do you know who creates medical documentation? It’s not lawyers. It’s doctors!

Without the right kind of medical records, there’s often not much a lawyer can do. With the right kind of medical records, there’s often not that much a lawyer needs to do.

🌷 How to Work with Your Doctor on Disability Documentation

🌷 How to Find a Doctor to Help With Disability Documentation

🌷 How To Get Your Doctor to Fill Out Disability Paperwork

Do I Need a Lawyer?

New Applications – Not necessary, but may help you feel less stressed. Lawyers will help you fill out the forms and can make the process easier. They can also answer your questions. If you feel intimidated or overwhelmed about getting started, a lawyer can be a good idea. Some lawyers will not accept clients with new applications. Whether or not you hire a lawyer, there are many wonderful things you can do to help your application yourself.

Reconsideration Applications – Either way is fine. This is a short stage and most of our readers report that their lawyers sent in the forms, but did not do anything special to help their cases at this point. Reconsideration stage does not happen in all states. Whether or not you hire a lawyer, there are many wonderful things you can do to help your reconsideration yourself.

Hearing Appeals – Recommended. Most readers report that they were glad to have a lawyer with them at their hearing. Lawyers can help you collect and submit your medical records before your hearing. They can also meet with you before your hearing to go over questions. They will be with you to address points at your hearing, and some lawyers take the time to write helpful briefs for the judge before your hearing. If your case runs into problems, in certain situations, a lawyer who knows Social Security policies can be very helpful. There are also plenty of things you can do yourself to prepare for your hearing.

Appeals Council – Highly recommended. To have the best chance possible, you need to make legal and policy arguments. Unless you have expertise in Social Security policy, you want a lawyer who knows how to do this. If you are trying to decide whether to go to appeals council, take a look here: How to Handle a Denial from a Judge

Federal Court – Hell, yes. You need a lawyer.


🌸 This page is part of the free online guide: The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability 

🌸 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

🌸 Page Updated: 8/1/19


🌸 Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 

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