Scarcely a month goes by without my hearing the following sad mantra from a social security disability applicant regarding their appeal to the Appeals Council or the Federal Court after denial of a claim:
“I saw/heard a very professional looking/sounding ad on TV/Radio/Internet, called them and signed up. They seemed to be very concerned about my case. I met my lawyer for the first time a year later, just before the hearing (or, he appeared at the hearing by phone because they were out of State). He* didn’t say much to the Judge. I don’t think he knew anything about my case. I was denied benefits. When I called the lawyer to find out what he could do to help me, I was advised that they don’t do appeals and to find another lawyer.”
The consequences of losing at the hearing level can be catastrophic. You may no longer be insured if you have to reapply. At very least, benefits will be delayed for several years.
When looking for a Social Security Disability attorney, apply the following safeguards:
Go to the advertiser’s website. If you see the following at the bottom of the home page, think twice before signing up.
“Talk to an attorney right now!”
“Not RealName.org is not a lawyer or law firm.”
These are not law firms. They are advertising services paid for by the lawyers and advocates whose names are forwarded in response to user requests. The lawyer you will be referred to is probably selected because he pays for the referral, not necessarily because he is competent.
Never hire a lawyer until you first meet him, face to face.
If it doesn’t feel right at the meeting, it probably isn’t.
Hire a local attorney.
He will be familiar with the Judge’s idiosyncrasies and will act accordingly. Additionally, you can schedule in person appointments without boarding a plane.
Hire an attorney who is member of NOSSCR.
NOSSCR is the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. The organization is committed to keeping members current on the law and changes to it and is committed to supporting a membership that provides high quality representation for claimants.
Check the content on the prospective attorney’s website.
If it is informative and helpful, it is worth a call and an office visit.
The delays once you file an initial application or an appeal are challenging enough so make sure the attorney you hire is by your side along the way.
*he means he or she.