Friday, December 28, 2007

Social Security Disability - A Third Who Appeal do not Hire a Lawyer

I came across an interesting article on proposed changes to the social security disability process by an Employment and Labor writer for CQ Politics.

In a nutshell, the article pointed out that disability appeals take too long and that proposed changes to the disability appeal process will actually go a long way toward harming claimants and discouraging them.

However, something that stuck in my mind is a statement captured in the article and attributed to Nancy Shor, the executive director of NOSSCR, the national organization of social security claimant's representatives. She stated that a third of those individuals who have been denied for social security disability did not hire a lawyer.

I only wish the statement had been clarified a bit. There may be a significant statistical difference between the non-use of a disability attorney following the denial of an initial claim for disability (the appeal step following this would be the request for reconsideration) and following the denial of a reconsideration (the appeal step in this scenario would be a request for reconsideration).

From my own experience, I know that it is at the point following the first denial that many claimants decide to find representation. However, I have no real idea as to how many claimants at this stage of the process choose not to seek representation. And I have no way of knowing how many claimants forego representation at the hearing level, though I have come across the statistic stating that only 40 percent of unrepresented claimants win at a hearing, while a little better than 60 percent of represented claimants win at a hearing.

Obviously, going by the statistics alone, it pays to have a rep at a hearing. And drawing upon my own experience in preparing cases for hearings, I have no doubt whatsoever that claimants who go to disability hearings alone are making an error in judgment, simply because the great majority of claimants will have little to no understanding of the social security definition of disability, the medical vocational grid, substantial gainful activity, the importance of vocational factors, or how to properly gather, evaluate, and submit medical record documentation to an administrative law judge.

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