Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What you should know about SSD even if you have a lawyer

Many of you have lawyers for your Social Security disability or SSI claim or you may be considering getting an attorney to help you. However, this does not mean you should simply sign the paperwork and wait to see what happens. Even if you have a lawyer you should have an understanding of how Social Security will determine if you are disabled. You should know the five step process Social Security uses to determine disability. Another thing you should consider is that even if you gave your doctors names and addresses to your lawyer and/or Social Security this does not guarantee they will be able to get all of your medical records and opinion evidence needed to win your case without your help. Many times, doctors are much more willing to give their records, and an opinion on disability to their patients directly, rather than answering a request for this from your lawyer or Social Security. However, keep in mind when you have a lawyer representing you it is important that you not be too involved in the case as to interfere with your attorney's representation of you. What can sometimes be worse though, is when you do not stay involved in your case at all. So it is important to balance your involvement in your case. The best way to do this is to ask your lawyer what you can do to help win your case. Your lawyer may send you to your doctors with paperwork or ask you to send them certain information. In the course of the social security disability claim many claimants may start to ask why do I have a lawyer if I am doing all this work. However, it is my experience in handling SSD and SSI claims for many years that those who are willing to help with their claims can substantially increase their chances of winning. I should also note, that clients who write constant letters and make constant phone calls to their lawyers and Social Security can actually hurt their claim. So how do you know if you are involved enough, but not too involved in your claim. For one, you should never call or write to Social Security without speaking to your lawyer first. You have a right to and should call your lawyer every two or three months to check in on your case and see if there is anything you can do to help. Many times speaking to your lawyer's staff should be enough to give you an update on your case and be able to tell you of any records or opinions they are having difficulty getting. However, there will also be times where you feel it is important that you speak your lawyer directly. Make sure to keep in mind that lawyers who handle Social Security disability lawyers have many clients, so it is important that when you request to speak your lawyer about your case that you do so for issues that are very important to your case or for some other reason you only want to speak your lawyer about it. Every client has a right to speak to their lawyer about their case, but just always keep in mind that if you call to frequently it can be very disruptive in the amount of time a lawyer has to work on your case and other cases. So to sum this up, if your lawyer asked for your help or asks for some information from you remember it is with the goal of winning your case, so attempt to get them the information they are looking for as soon as possible. If you have a question you should first ask that question of the staff (unless it is personal) and if your question is not answered to your satisfaction you should then ask to speak to the lawyer personally. For example, if you are simply checking on the status of your claim the lawyer's staff should be able to answer this question for you. Another example would be if you are checking to see if your lawyer received certain information you sent to the lawyer again the staff should be able to tell you. If your question is legal in nature or pertains to sensitive medical condition then in this situation you'll probably want to request you speak to the lawyer handling your case. Every law office handles cases differently and in some cases lawyers do not even have employees. So know your lawyer and use your best judgment as to when you need to call and what you can do to help your claim without getting so involved as to hurt your claim.