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How to Find an Attorney for Social Security Cases

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Attorney for Social Security

May 14, 2020

What is Social Security law?

An attorney for social security specializes in helping disabled people and their families get the benefits they are entitled to receive. These lawyers perform a wide range of services for their clients, doing everything that is necessary to achieve a successful outcome. Legal services may including filing the initial application, obtaining necessary medical records and supporting documentation and representing clients in appeals hearings.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a federal government agency that provides various benefits to individuals and their eligible family members. In addition to monthly retirement-related payments, the SSA provides disability benefits to those who meet certain requirements. 

The SSA disability program has many rules and strict qualification criteria. As a result, many people have difficulty applying for and receiving benefits. To complicate the process further, many applications are denied, even for individuals who meet the eligibility requirements.

How does the SSA define disability?   

Social Security disability benefits are only paid in cases of total disability. No benefits are payable for partial or short-term disability.

To receive these benefits, individuals must be considered disabled according to the SSA’s definition.

Applicants must meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • Those who cannot do the type of work they were able to do before becoming disabled
  • People who are unable to transition to other work because of their disability or medical condition
  • Individuals who have a disability that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or to result in death

What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

The Social Security Administration provides two basic types of disability benefits.

The first is Social Security disability (SSD), which is also known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI).

Workers who have a long-term disabling injury or illness may receive these benefits, providing they meet certain criteria outlined by the SSA.

The second category is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is need-based. These benefits are provided to disabled children and adults with limited income who meet specific eligibility requirements.

Is a non-lawyer representative as effective as a disability attorney?

Every individual has the right to use a representative when doing business with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Applicants may choose a disability attorney or a non-lawyer representative.

Non-lawyer advocates

The SSA requires non-lawyer representatives to meet certain requirements that include a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent qualifications) and completion of continuing education courses. In addition, these non-attorney advocates must have professional liability insurance and pass a background check and a short written exam.

Social Security lawyers

In addition to fulfilling the same qualifications as non-lawyer representatives, an attorney for social security assistance has graduated from law school with a juris doctorate (J.D.) degree and passed a rigorous state bar exam.

Here are some other advantages a Social Security attorney has over a non-lawyer representative:

  • Attorney-client privilege
  • Stringent rules of conduct and ethical obligations
  • Specialized legal training
  • Ability to appeal a claim to the federal district court level

What are the benefits of using an attorney for Social Security?

Studies show that people who hire experienced Social Security lawyers have faster and more lucrative outcomes than those who represent themselves.

A qualified attorney for Social Security disability can help you:

  • Determine which type of Social Security benefits you qualify for
  • Avoid unnecessary delays and denials
  • Receive the maximum monthly benefit you are entitled to under the law
  • Fill out the necessary paperwork in compliance with SSA deadlines and filing requirements
  • Gather the necessary medical documentation required to prove your eligibility
  • Help you file an appeal if your claim is erroneously denied
  • Represent you in court if your case proceeds to trial
  • Determine whether you qualify for any of the exceptions the SSA provides for people with special circumstances

What should I look for when choosing an attorney for Social Security disability?

Choosing the right Social Security lawyer can make the difference between a quick and successful resolution and a long-lasting headache. It’s a good idea to interview one or more attorneys before you decide which one to hire.

Here are some of the qualities to look for when choosing a lawyer:   

  • A specialization in Social Security disability law and a thorough understanding of the system
  • A proven track record of success obtaining disability benefits for clients in similar situations
  • Courtroom experience in case your claim proceeds to trial
  • Compassion for the emotional and financial strain you and your family are experiencing as a result of your disability
  • A contingency fee policy with no up-front advances or retainers 

What is the “Compassionate Allowances” program and how do I know whether I qualify?

This program allows expedited Social Security disability claims processing for people with certain serious medical conditions. These include some forms of cancers, adult brain disorders and other rare illnesses. A complete list of eligible conditions can be found on the SSA website at

Does the SSA allow exceptions for other special circumstances?

Yes, applicants in certain situations outside the standard SSA criteria may be able to receive disability benefits. However, the rules and regulations governing these special categories are complicated. Therefore, if you think you qualify for one of these exceptions, it is best to have a knowledgeable Social Security lawyer assist with your application. 

People in the following categories may qualify for an exception:

  • Individuals with severe visual impairment

Applicants must meet strict requirements to be considered legally blind by the SSA.   Nonetheless, those who do not meet the legal definition of blindness may still qualify for disability benefits if they are unable to work as a result of their visual impairment.

  • Disabled widows or widowers

When a worker dies, their widows, widowers or surviving divorced spouses who have a disability may qualify for Social Security benefits providing certain conditions are met. For example, the onset of the survivor’s disability must be before or within seven years of the worker’s death.

  • Disabled children

Someone who became disabled before age 22 may be eligible for children’s benefits if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits. This type of benefit is based on the parent’s Social Security earnings record. Those who receive their own SSI or disability benefits may be eligible for an increased amount, including being entitled to Medicare, based on a parent’s earnings record.

  • Wounded warriors and veterans

Disabled veterans and those who were injured during military service may be eligible for expedited processing of Social Security benefits. In addition, many veterans do not realize they may be able to receive Social Security benefits in addition to disability benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA). This is another reason it is wise to consult a Social Security disability lawyer to ensure your application is handled correctly.

How much will an attorney for social security cost?

Social Security attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means they collect a fee only after your disability claim is resolved. This means you should not have to pay any up-front fees or retainers.

Upon taking your case, a Social Security lawyer will ask you to sign a written fee agreement, which is submitted to the SSA for approval. This agreement allows the SSA to pay your attorney directly out of the back pay you receive when your case concludes. Social Security law caps attorney fees at $6,000, or 25% of the client’s back pay, whichever is less. However, an attorney may request permission from the SSA to charge a higher fee in some cases, such as those requiring multiple hearings or federal court appearances.

Social Security law is complicated, but finding the right lawyer is simple.

Call 1-800-CALL-SAM today for a free, no-obligation remote consultation from the safety of your home.