If your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is denied at the initial and reconsideration levels, you have a right to appeal the Social Security Administration’s decision in a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
You have three choices on how to handle this hearing: You can represent yourself, hire an attorney or hire a non-attorney disability benefits advocate to represent you. For many reasons, the Disparti Law Group, P.A., believes the best choice is to work with an attorney.
First, it’s important to know that you must request this hearing within 60 days of receiving the reconsideration decision. To file a hearing request, you or your representative must complete and submit two forms:
The Social Security Administration (SSA) says you should also complete the following forms:
Along with the forms, you must also submit any new evidence you want the ALJ to consider. You can file this at the time you request the hearing or within 10 days of filing the hearing request. Due to the SSA’s backlog of claims, you may have to wait several months for your hearing to take place.
Both an attorney and a non-attorney disability benefits advocate may be familiar with the SSD application and appeals process and even have familiarity with the ALJs who will decide your application for benefits.
However, there are many significant differences between an attorney and a non-attorney. In particular, an attorney must meet certain educational, professional and ethical standards that non-attorneys do not have to meet. These standards go a long way toward ensuring that you are represented by a competent advocate.
First, an attorney will have attended law school and earned a juris doctorate (J.D.) degree. Second, the attorney also will have passed the bar exam in Florida or another state. Third, the attorney also will be a member of the state bar, which enforces the standards of professional and ethical conduct among its lawyers.
Perhaps the most well-known legal ethic that licensed lawyers adhere to is attorney-client privilege. This means the details of your disability case will remain confidential under almost all circumstances.
Your non-attorney representative must have a bachelor’s degree and pass a background check and a written test given by SSA. He or she must also have some form of liability insurance.
Of course, the non-attorney representative you choose to represent you would be someone you know and whose personal ethics you trust. But if a dispute arises, for example if your non-attorney representative divulges personal information about you to a friend or family member, who will you go to with your complaint?
The Florida Bar’s lawyer discipline system, for instance, protects the public by providing a means to address lawyer misconduct, but obviously the Bar would have no jurisdiction over your non-attorney representative.
There is also no cost benefit to hiring a non-attorney over an attorney.
Whether your representative is an attorney or not, they must file either a fee agreement or a fee petition with the Social Security Administration. Your representative cannot charge you more than the fee amount the SSA authorizes.
In most cases, the SSA will agree to no more than 25 percent of past-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less. Your representative can also charge you for out-of-pocket expenses, such as for medical reports, without SSA approval. Either an attorney or a non-attorney can charge you for these expenses.
So, whether you hire an attorney or a non-attorney to represent you, your cost will likely be the same. However, when you hire an attorney, you will have the added confidence that your representative has met the educational, professional and ethical standards of his profession.
At Disparti Law Group, P.A., we’ll keep you regularly updated as your case moves forward, and we will respond as quickly as possible to your questions and concerns. We’ll work tirelessly to make sure you get the benefits you need and deserve. Our staff of dedicated legal professionals and their experience with SSD claims allows us to accomplish this level of client service.
We have more than 30 years of experience handling Social Security Disability benefits cases. Our attorneys serve clients in Tampa, Holiday, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Naples, Bonita Springs and all across Florida and the United States.. Let us put our decades of experience and knowledge to work for you.
If you or a loved one needs legal assistance with a Social Security Disability claim, call a Florida SSD claims lawyer at the Disparti Law Group, P.A., today toll free at our toll-free number or use our online form. Your initial consultation is free of charge.