You may think your disability is obvious and there should be no problem getting your Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income - usually referred to as SSDI and SSI - approved. After all, your doctor may have ordered that you not work, or you may be unable to take care of your basic daily needs.
The law controlling eligibility for SSDI or SSI is complicated and you must meet a specific definition of disability - you must have a severe medical or physical impairment (or combination of impairments) that keeps you from working and is expected to last at least a year or result in death.
So even if you cannot work right now because of impairment, you would not be eligible unless doctors expect you will be in this position for at least a year or face a fatal condition.
An attorney can explain all the details about how disability is defined and evaluated under federal law by the Social Security Administration, called the SSA.
Developing a complete record
One of the most important reasons for seeking legal representation is that a lawyer will understand how to develop the medical record before the agency. There must be objective medical evidence of impairment on which to base your claim and your administrative file at the SSA must be fully developed to document every diagnosis or injury as well as your symptoms and how long your condition has lasted or is expected to last.
An attorney will work with your treating doctors to gather the necessary medical evidence as well as see that any impairment or medical limitation not sufficiently assessed is evaluated by a medical professional for your file.
Cut short the time for approval
It can take months, even years, for the agency to approve an application. There are several levels of review and appeal available and the earlier legal counsel gets involved, the more likely the approval will be sooner. This can be important to applicants facing financial strain from inability to work.
Even if you did not get a lawyer to help with your initial application, you can seek representation at any stage of appeal. This may be especially important during the third level of the process at the hearing before an administrative law judge. An attorney can question government witnesses as well as present evidence and testimony to support your claim.
A lawyer will help you meet appeal deadlines as well as know when and if an exception may be available if you missed one. They also may be able to get a previous claim reopened, which can result in a period of disability starting earlier and more monetary benefits.
These and many more reasons to talk to an experienced disability lawyer should be impetus for you to do so as soon as possible.