Social Security Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income can be overwhelmingly complicated things to deal with. Most first-time applications are denied because they failed to include information or to build a compelling case for why the individual in question should receive SSI benefits.
One of the best ways to improve your chances of getting accepted is to work with an SSI attorney on the application. An SSI attorney puts together SSI applications for a living, so they’ll understand what the Social Security Administration is looking for in an application. In addition, if you have already had an application for SSI benefits denied, then an attorney can help you to appeal the decision.
Regardless of whether or not you’re meeting with an SSI attorney about your first application or about an appeal, it is crucial that you bring the relevant documentation that they’re going to need to examine. To better prepare you for your meeting, we’re going to look at what documentation you should bring to an SSI attorney and what documentation is necessary to fight against an SSI denial. Then we’ll close our discussion by exploring some questions that you should pose to any SSI attorney you meet.
What Documentation Does Any SSI Attorney Need?
Regardless of whether or not you are meeting with an SSI attorney to talk about a first-time application or an appeal, it is vitally important that you bring the relevant documentation to this meeting. Without the proper documentation, there can be no positive outcome from the meeting. In fact, without proper documentation, the meeting is mostly pointless.
The reason for this is quite simple. To be approved for SSI benefits, you need to show that you suffer from a condition that benefits are approved for. In addition, you also need to show that you have spent enough time working throughout your life to have earned the ability to benefit from SSI.
You should bring your medical records for the first point you need to prove. An attorney will be able to help you obtain your medical records if you are unsure how to do so, but it is much faster if you can gather them yourself. Your medical records are used to show your condition and your medical history. Often, they are one and the same. Your medical history will show how your condition has progressed.
Medical records are composed of important information like the medications you’ve been taking, the specialists you’ve met with, any testing you’ve undergone, and how everything has affected your condition thus far. Additionally, there may be written opinions that your doctors have left or agreed to write to include as part of your application.
You should also bring with your documentation about your work history. The SSA examines up to fifteen years of your work history as part of their consideration of your application. This allows them to see what kind of work you have done. This will give them a better understanding of how your condition affects your ability to work. While a straight work history is useful, it is also a good idea to gather any evidence of your condition affecting your ability to work in the past. A note from your employer may help highlight this.
What Documentation Does an SSI Attorney Need to Appeal an SSI Denial?
If you have had an SSI application denied, you may still be able to get your benefits approved by appealing the decision. Many people find that their first applications are denied because they failed to include important information or build a compelling case despite having the correct elements to have done so.
If you are meeting with an SSI attorney about appealing a decision, you are still going to want to bring your medical records and documentation about your work history. There may be vital information in this documentation that you should have included in your application.
In addition to the documentation we’ve already discussed, if you are looking to meet with an SSI attorney about an appeal, you must also bring your denial notice. This is the letter that lays out why the SSA denied your application in the first place. This information informs your attorney about the weaknesses in the application, and they will use it as a guide on how to improve your application.
Appeals may be relatively straightforward, but there is also a chance that they prove to be quite complicated. If you’re lucky, your appeal will end with a reconsideration by the SSA that ends in your approval. In trickier situations, you may need to attend a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge or even take the case all the way to federal court. Thankfully, most appeals tend towards a simpler solution.
What Questions Should You Ask When You Meet Your SSI Attorney?
When meeting with an SSI attorney, it’s essential to ask questions to determine whether or not they are a good fit for you and your unique situation.
Some questions you may want to ask your SSI attorney include the following:
- How much experience do you have with cases like this?
- How much experience do you have practicing law?
- How much of your practice is dedicated to cases like this?
- Will you be the attorney assigned to my case?
- What is your fee structure?
- Are fees ever adjusted due to unexpected circumstances?
- How will you communicate with me?
- Are you familiar with my medical condition?
- How do you handle appeals?
- What can I do to help my claim?
- How should I prepare for a hearing?
- Do I qualify for other benefits?
Is an Attorney Necessary?
You can apply for SSI benefits without an attorney. However, applications done without an attorney have a much higher rate of denial than those prepared with an experienced attorney’s help. Whether you are looking at a first-time application or you are looking to appeal a denial, working with an SSI attorney will vastly improve your experience.