The Number One Issue to Resolve with an Disability Attorney Before Hiring Themby Chris Cloud (Cloud Law Firm PA)
Before hiring a disability attorney, the first issue any disabled person should clearly resolve is whether the disability attorney will personally handle the disabled client’s hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
Only a small percentage of social security disability applicants are awarded disability benefits at the application stage of the disability claims process. As a result, most disability applicants are forced to pursue their disability claim through the disability appeal process.
There are four stages in the disability appeals process. A disability claimant is statistically more likely to be awarded disability benefits at the hearing stage, before an ALJ, than during at any other stage of the social security disability appeals process. It seems clear then, that it is important that a disability applicant receive effective and experienced representation at the hearing stage of the disability appeals process.
In spite of that realization, it is not uncommon for some disability attorneys to not personally handle their client’s disability claims at the hearing stage. Instead, disability firms across the country, advertising through numerous local mediums, such as television and radio, are more than willing to sign up disability clients in locations where they have no office and no employees, including locations where they do not intend to attend disability hearings.
In that situation, it is not uncommon for out-of-state firms to hire a local attorney to “cover” their disability client’s hearings. Sometimes arrangements are made shortly before the hearing. Sometimes the disability client does not meet the new local attorney until the day of the hearing. In some circumstances, the disability client may not be getting the level of representation they bargained for. Oftentimes, the disability client does not get the representation of the attorney they saw on television or heard on the radio.
Unfortunately, national social security disability firms are not the only ones engaging in this type of behavior. Local firms commonly use attorneys who effectively function as salesmen to sign clients and then quickly hand the disability file over to a less experienced associate attorney or outside counsel to handle portions of the disability client’s case, sometimes including the disability hearing.
My advice is, if you are going to go to the trouble of seeking out a good attorney, make sure that attorney is actually the one representing you, especially at the disability hearing. You have too much riding on your claim to expect anything less.