Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to get an attorney?
The sad truth is that most Social Security Disability claimants have to go through several appeals, including a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge, before their claim is approved. This can be a very lengthy and frustrating process.
An experienced Social Security attorney can ease the burden and significantly increase the chances of winning your case. Statistically, disability claimants with an attorney are much more likely to win than those who represent themselves.
An experienced attorney will do a number of things to increase your chances of winning.
Perhaps most importantly, your attorney will ensure that all deadlines are met. This is extremely important because, if you miss a deadline, you may lose your right to file an appeal. On a Title II claim, if your date last insured has passed, the missed deadline could very well mean that you have lost your one chance to get your disability benefits. In other words, a missed deadline could cost you a lifetime of disability benefits that can never be recovered. Even on a Title 16 claim, a missed deadline can cost you several years of benefits and require you to restart the application process from the beginning.
An experienced Social Security attorney will have the expertise to properly evaluate your case and formulate a winning strategy. Having represented hundreds of Social Security Disability claimants over the past decade, we at Brandt Law Office know what it takes to win a case – even a tough case.
An experienced attorney will also ensure that Social Security obtains all of the medical records necessary to properly evaluate your case. Your attorney will also know what questions to ask your medical providers in order to establish disability according to Social Security’s definition. Unfortunately, a statement from your doctor saying that you are “disabled” is usually not enough to win your case. An experienced Social Security attorney will have questionnaires for your medical providers with carefully worded questions that are designed to prove that you meet Social Security’s definition of “disabled.”
An experienced attorney also knows when Social Security is taking longer than usual to decide a case and will also follow up with Social Security to determine the cause of the delay. This is very important because, unfortunately, disability claims offices sometimes lose files or fail to process them in a timely manner. If Social Security loses your file, your attorney will have the records necessary to prove that an application was filed, thereby preserving your right to receive benefits based on the “protective” filing date.
An experienced attorney can also ensure that you have applied for all disability programs for which you are eligible. Your attorney can also determine if you are eligible to “reopen” old applications. In some cases, a prior application can be reopened even if it was never appealed. This could potentially increase your past due benefits by several years, thereby increasing your award of benefits by thousands of dollars. If you have previously filed an application, or even if you simply called Social Security to ask questions, you could be eligible for significant past due benefits. So it is important to tell your attorney about any prior applications or communications with the Social Security Administration.
Many claimants simply give up after one or two denials. Getting an attorney will ensure that someone is fighting for your benefits even if you begin to feel like it is no longer worth the effort.
How much will it cost to hire an attorney?
If you choose to hire an attorney, most cases are handled on a “contingency” basis, meaning that the attorney is paid only if the case is won. An attorney's fee is typically 25% of any past due benefits collected for you. Click here for more information on attorney fees.
Will I have to travel to Yakima?
No. Although our clients are always welcome to schedule an appointment to meet with us at our office, this will never be required. We represent clients all throughout the state of Washington and we understand that many of our clients have difficulty leaving home, let alone traveling to another town. As such, we are well-equipped to do most of our work by telephone, mail, and online. At the initial stage, and the first level of appeal, we can do all of the work on your case without requiring you to do any travel at all.
If your claim gets to the hearing level, we can still do most of the work by telephone and mail. However, you will usually need to attend the hearing in person. For most of our clients, the hearing will be in Kennewick, Yakima, Wenatchee, or The Dalles – whichever is closest to you.
Prior to the hearing, your attorney will meet with you to prepare you for the hearing. This pre-hearing meeting can be done by telephone, but most clients prefer to do the pre-hearing in person. The pre-hearing meeting will almost always be in the same town as the hearing. Of course the attorney will also be with you at the hearing.