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It’s advised to get a lawyer involved in a social security disability (SSD) case at some point. Experienced legal representation has been known to increase approval chances significantly, help a case move quicker through the system, or even lead to an on-the-record decision, which eliminates the hearing process.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) rejects 60 percent of all initial applications, but claimants have multiple appeal opportunities. If you’ve thought about getting a lawyer involved, take these three steps into account:

For The Hearing and Reconsideration Stage

Also known as the first level of appeals, the claimant in this stage must go to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing and often has to compile more evidence.

It’s said that this is the most important point for a lawyer to get involved. For one, an experienced lawyer is familiar with the process, questions asked, and documents needed, and thus serves as a disability advocate.

Two, the process becomes significantly more complex. The claimant, with or without representation, is required to collect and submit medical evidence, get an opinion and statements from a doctor, and has to put together a brief.

A lawyer, in response, can guide your claim. Not only is he or she familiar with the SSA’s rules and regulations, but when it comes to presenting your case before a judge, a lawyer additionally knows what the ALJ is looking for, knows which questions to ask, and can assist you with preparing a testimony for both the judge and a vocational expert.

Keep in mind, however, that after your initial claim’s rejection, you have 60 days to apply for an appeal. It’s recommended, then, that you submit your appeal first and then seek out a lawyer.

The Initial Application

While a less-common scenario, a lawyer may need to be involved in the initial SSD application. While claimants are still rejected, legal help assists with the following:

  • Determining a clear onset date of disability.
  • Proving your condition meets one of the SSA’s listed impairments.
  • Making your initial case more convincing to the SSA.