Do I Need a Lawyer When Filing for Social Security Disability?

Posted Monday, September 23rd by Gil Laden

You file for Social Security disability. The next thing you know, you’re inundated with forms with pages and pages of questions. Because of your medical problems, you are not at your sharpest. Some of the questions are tricky; some forms even ask the same questions you answered on other forms. You answer them as best you can – or you think you did. Besides, how important can they be? Your doctor says you are disabled.

In my experience, people who fill out these forms often do a poor job. What they do not realize is that these forms are now evidence in the case. What they also don’t know is that how they completed their forms can be used to discredit their testimony at a hearing before a judge.

Why are their responses not up to par? Disabled individuals may not be thinking clearly due to chronic pain, the side effects of medications, the stress of financial worries, or inability to concentrate due to a mental impairment such as depression. It could be due to difficulty admitting that they just don’t function as well as they once did. Their pride gets in the way. They are embarrassed.

I see this occasionally when I interview clients. I ask a client about what he or she can do, but keep an eye on the spouse, who may look incredulous in response to my client’s answer. The spouse then tells me something different. The client looks down, perhaps feeling ashamed as to how poorly he or she may be doing. Sometimes, though, it is just a lack of insight or awareness of how limited he or she really is.

 What Social Security (actually the Disability Determination Service – the state agency that decides disability claims for Social Security) does not tell claimants is that what they put down in answer to the questions on the forms is what it will assume they can do every day. While Social Security law recognizes that symptoms go up and down, the forms are not worded to consider that.

It is important to be truthful in answering the questions on these forms, but emotions get in the way. Combined with how the questions are worded, this can lead to inaccurate responses – to the detriment of a disability claimant.

I can help provide an objective view, especially when I am able to combine my knowledge of Social Security disability law with what Social Security is looking for on these forms. It is important to get the truth out, but that can be challenging for the disability claimant going it alone.

Let me emphasize that the goal is to answer these questions honestly, but in a way that will not be misinterpreted by the disability examiner or judge. They will be looking at the answers in the context of what the claimant can be expected to do on a sustained basis during a 40-hour workweek.

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He has been certified as a specialist in Social Security Disability Law by the National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy, as acknowledged by the Alabama State Bar.