To Hire Or Not To Hire…
A survey conducted by NOLO showed that people who applied for SSDI or SSI were almost twice as likely to get benefits when they hired a disability lawyer.
If you’re thinking of applying for benefits from either of the federal programs for people with disabilities—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—you might be wondering whether you should hire a lawyer to help you with your claim.
To find out more about the role of lawyers in obtaining SSDI and SSI benefits, NOLO surveyed readers across the U.S. who recently went through the process of filing a claim and getting a decision. Here’s what they learned about the difference a lawyer can make.
The Lawyer Advantage Overall
Our survey showed that hiring a disability lawyer makes a big difference in the outcome of SSDI and SSI claims. About a third of our readers (33%) had the help of an attorney at some point in the process of applying for benefits and pursuing an appeal (if they went that far). Of those readers with legal representation, 60% were ultimately approved for benefits, compared to 34% of those who didn’t have a lawyer’s help. That means that having a lawyer nearly doubled applicants’ chances of getting benefits. (A government report from 2017 backs up this data; the report found that disability applicants who used representatives were allowed benefits 2.9 times as often as those without.)
That’s the big picture. But you may have other questions. At what point is a lawyer’s help more critical? Does the type of program you’re applying for (SSDI or SSI) make a difference? A closer look at the survey results provides some answers.
Legal Representation at the Appeal Hearing
Only a little over half of our readers whose application was denied (52%) requested a hearing before a judge —a figure that’s close to national statistics on appeals. That’s too bad, because people who either gave up or missed the deadline for filing an appeal has passed up their best opportunity for getting disability benefits: at a hearing before an administrative law judge. And our survey showed that getting help from a lawyer at this stage improved those chances significantly.
Of the participants who requested a hearing, more than seven in ten (71%) hired a lawyer to help with their appeal. As the survey shows, that was a smart decision: A lawyer more than doubled the chances of a good outcome. Half of those with legal representation (50%) were approved for benefits after the hearing, compared to less than a quarter (23%) of those who represented themselves.
These results aren’t surprising. Experienced disability attorneys can help in several ways, including:
- gathering the proper medical evidence
- recognizing when medical records need updating or more evidence is needed
- preparing you for questioning at the hearing
- anticipating what the administrative law judge may focus on (based on the attorney’s familiarity with local judges who preside at Social Security disability hearings), and
- knowing how to cross-examine the vocational expert in order to strengthen your case.
Does the Type of Disability Make a Difference?
Our survey shows that SSI applicants generally have a more difficult time getting benefits than SSDI applicants. A lawyer’s help makes a significant difference regardless of the program, but the attorney advantage is especially big for SSI applicants. Readers who applied for SSI and hired an attorney at some point in the process (usually for the hearing) were nearly three times as likely to win approval as those who proceeded without a lawyer (68% compared to 25%).
The Bottom Line on Disability Lawyers
It isn’t easy to get Social Security disability benefits. As anyone who’s been through it can tell you, it can be a long, exhausting process. But this survey reveals two important points that provide hope: Don’t give up if your application is denied at first, because approval rates go up at the hearing stage. And if you want to increase your chances of success, seek the help of an experienced disability lawyer.
We also asked readers how they felt about their lawyers overall. The results seemed to be a reflection of the improved outcomes with legal representation. More than half of our readers (54%) said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their attorneys, while more than a quarter were dissatisfied on some level. When we looked more deeply at who was more likely to be satisfied with their lawyers, the results weren’t surprising: Readers who ultimately got benefits were much more likely to be happy with their legal representation (71%). Also, readers were almost 20% more likely to be satisfied with lawyers who didn’t take any payment for their help.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that it usually won’t cost you to hire a lawyer, because the fee will be paid out of the disability award. If you don’t win, the attorney gets nothing.
My Florida Social Security Lawyer:
What do our clients have to say about Martin L Hoffman and the firm?
5 ****** Attorney
“After over 6 years of trying to deal with my own Social Security Disability case, I finally found the answer when I met Mr. Martin Hoffman, Marcy, and their entire law office. When I approached him and his office with my complex case, as the district office had previously lost my case and my health issues are complicated to grasp, they welcomed me as if I was with family. I finally felt safe as I knew that I was in trusted hands.
The team spent multiple hours on the organization and preparing my case, way beyond my expectations. Marcy did everything to make sure that we had all of the information collected and prepared. Her consistent communication between all of the parties was exceptional. Martin Hoffman explained to me all of the facts, in detail, so I understood exactly what would happen with my case and how to approach it. ……He met with me several times to go over the processes involved and made sure that I was ready. On the day of the trial, his effective case preparations and arguments made won the case almost immediately. He, Marcy and the whole office were as excited for me as I was for myself! “ 5 ***** Stacey K. 2019
Social Security success
Posted by JEANNE
July 26, 2019
Social Security for mental disability can often be an arduous task. Although it’s not obvious what is going on to those on the outside, Mr. Hoffman was able to expose quite eloquently what was going on in the inside and presented a successful case for her son. I would highly recommend him.
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
“Fast, reliable, friendly and trustworthy!
Posted by Molly
May 14, 2015
Let me start by saying Mr. Martin Hoffman knows his stuff! Obtaining disability benefits is a long and drawn-out process but Mr. Hoffman’s approach to paperwork and his reliability makes it so much less painful. He takes the time to guide you step by step through the process and every step of the way, he’s always there if you have any questions. He also speaks on your behalf from start to finish, whereas other attorneys will leave you to deal with what feels like endless phone calls from Social Security. Not Mr. Hoffman! I barely had to speak to anyone on the phone myself, as he and his staff did all of that for me. Being disabled this was a huge burden off my back. He made the entire process as stress-free as possible and I would 100% recommend him to anyone who needs Social Security benefits in a timely manner. He WILL fight for you! My case was finished in 13 months. He’s also funny and kind, so meetings at his office are pleasant and not as much of a chore! Thank you for everything Mr. Hoffman!”