The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for one of the largest and most complex programs within the Federal Government1. Having a knowledgeable Disability Representative to help guide a claimant through this process can be critical to ensuring a favorable outcome.
Successfully navigating the process of applying for benefits generally requires the completion and submission of numerous forms in a timely manner. This can be time-consuming and confusing for individuals that are unfamiliar with Social Security’s rules and the terminology that they use. An appointed representative receives copies of essentially all the correspondence that SSA sends to a claimant and they can take action and make submissions on behalf of the claimant.
A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report analyzed approximately 3.3 million hearings done between 2007 and 2015 and found that claimants with representatives were awarded at a rate nearly 3 times higher than claimants who were not represented.2 The report indicates, among the reasons given for this statistically significant difference, “that a representative can help ensure the medical evidence and other records are fully developed and help the claimant present their case at a hearing”.3
Having knowledge of what is required for a particular client to be found disabled, a representative can help identify evidence deficiencies, ensuring there is sufficient evidence for SSA to fully evaluate the claimant’s case. It is not uncommon for a representative to request the opinion of a medical professional who treats the claimant. These opinions, when expressed in terms of functional limitations, can carry significant weight with Social Security’s decision makers.
Beyond ensuring the medical evidence is complete, a representative will also ensure that pertinent vocational information is correctly described and classified. At the disability hearing, a representative will make statements regarding the material facts and law involving the case, and they will have the opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses (e.g. medical experts, vocational experts, etc.) that Social Security has asked to testify.
If you would like more information about where to find a Disability Representative in your area, the National Association of Disability Representatives (NADR) has an online list at https://www.nadr.org/.