The short answer is: No, you do not *need* an SSDI lawyer, but it may still be helpful to hire one.
The short answer is: No, you do not need an SSDI lawyer, but it may still be helpful to hire one.
Anyone can apply for SSDI benefits on their own through one of three methods:
And if your application is successful, the benefit to applying on your own is simple - it saves you money because no legal fees will be deducted from your award.
But navigating the application process can be overwhelming and the vast majority of initial applications are rejected. Even after all levels of appeal, the acceptance rate has averaged just 34% over time. So while it is true that you do not need an SSDI lawyer, it can be very helpful to hire one to help guide you through the process and increase the chances your application is ultimately successful.
The SSDI application process can be confusing and overwhelming. The application form alone is over seven pages long, and many applications are rejected due to incomplete forms or information.
If your initial application is rejected, as most are, there are four different levels of appeal - reconsideration; a hearing before an administrative law judge; review by SSA’s Appeals Council; and a lawsuit in federal court.
An SSDI lawyer can guide you through the process and increase your chances of success at each stage of the process. On your initial application, they can help ensure that you include all the necessary information and that you are on track to meet all the technical requirements. (For instance, that your disability is either a disability listed by the SSA, or equivalent to such a disability).
At the various appeals stages, they can craft arguments and help you gather the evidence necessary to overturn the initial decision and convince the respective decision-makers that you are entitled to SSDI benefits.
Some people may be inclined to hold off on hiring a lawyer at the initial application stage. And as noted above, if you are able to submit a successful application on your own, this can save you money in legal fees.
But most applications are not successful, and the appeals process can span months or even years. That means that the initial rejection could mean going years without the benefits you need, even if you eventually prevail and secure the benefits you are entitled to.
Additionally, most SSDI lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they only only get paid if they win your case. Applicants should therefore consider consulting a lawyer even for the initial application since there is no upfront legal cost and doing so can increase the chances of SSA approval, which means you get your benefits faster.
If you do not consult a lawyer and your application is unsuccessful, you are not alone - most applications are rejected. And the reality is that the appeals process can be even more complicated than the initial application, so it is not too late to benefit from having a lawyer on your side.
A lawyer can help position your case for the best chance of success, and also help you navigate the deadlines and more technical requirements associated with an appeal. For instance, the SSA allows anyone to appeal their initial decision, but you must request an appeal in writing within sixty days of receiving the SSA’s decision.
In sum, you do not need an SSDI lawyer in order to file your application or appeal a rejection, but it may still be helpful to hire one. Submitting the application on your own could save you money in legal fees, but applying for SSDI benefits can be a lengthy and complicated process. And since most initial applications are rejected, you might wait months or even years for your SSDI benefits, even if your application is eventually successful.
Having someone guide you through the process and help to strategically position your case could increase your overall chances of success and help get you your benefits faster. Because SSDI lawyers generally operate on a contingency basis, it may be worth reaching out for a free consultation regardless of what stage in the process you find yourself.