As a disability attorney of course my first thought is that you should have an attorney if you are pursuing disability. We are contingency only, which means that you pay NOTHING if you do not win. On top of that, the MAXIMUM amount of money that SSA allows us to be paid is $6,000 whereas your past-due benefits could be thousands and possibly more than 5 figures!
If you’re not convinced, I can provide 1 example that proved my client benefited by THOUSANDS of dollars because I was there representing him at his hearing and I knew the right things to say and questions to ask. This client suffered from cancer, and had filed for SSDI (disability based on your work history) and waited two years for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Unfortunately his condition worsened and as a result I requested that the Judge rush to have a hearing as soon as possible and I wrote a brief arguing that the judge should just grant the case based on the medical records we had obtained. the judge reviewed the file and called me to offer to cut my client’s backpay by two years! My client was asking for disability payments dating back to his cancer diagnosis in March 2016 and the judge offered to grant the case as of March 2018. I advised the client that that was not fair and we should not take the deal. He agreed and we rejected the offer, so the Judge scheduled a hearing for the next week (normally you have a right to have 75 days’ notice of a hearing, but we advised the client to waive that notice). I requested that the judge have a medical expert to testify at the hearing. Medical experts are doctors that review your medical records and then testify as to whether you are disabled or not, why the doctor believes that and if you are disabled HOW FAR BACK DID THE DISABILITY GO. Because the judge wanted to cut the backpay, I wanted a doctor to take that opinion out of the Judge’s hands!
At the hearing, the Judge was allowed to question the doctor first before I could cross examine him afterwards. The doctor testified that my client was in fact disabled. The judge then asked whether disability began in March 2018. The doctor said yes, but he believes it went back to October 2017, so my requesting an expert actually won my client an additional 5 months of backpay! But it gets better because the Judge was satisfied at this point and turned questioning over to me. Now there are very technical rules about how to find someone disabled and the doctor testified only about ONE of the ways the claimant can be disabled, but the Judge, not wanting to grant more backpay, didn’t ask about the others. So I asked the doctor “I know you testified that he met the Listing (that is another post altogether), but what about his ability to work before October 2017, because wouldn’t his radiation and chemotherapy have had such severe effects that he would be unable to work even though he didn’t meet the Listing prior to October 2017?” The doctor said “YES!” Then I asked “would those side effects have caused disability all the way back to March 2016?” The doctor said ”YES!”
The Judge was stunned and said he was going to grant all the backpay requested based on the doctor’s testimony! He also apologized to my client for not granting the case sooner! So, with 2 questions, questions my client and most claimants would never know to ask, I won my client everything he asked for, which totaled THOUSANDS of dollars in backpay (I believe that it was in the range of $50,000)!
That is why you need an attorney.