When filing your Social Security benefits, choosing the right attorney for SSI can help you reach a positive outcome in your case.
Though you may apply for SSI benefits on your own, without representation there’s a higher chance your benefits will be initially denied.
Then you will need to navigate additional levels of appeal and administrative review.
The fact is that getting your SSI benefits can be a lengthy process with multiple steps to manage along the way. The process from applying to being approved or denied can take, on average, 90 to 120 days—and the appeals process can take several years as you await hearings.
During this process, it can be greatly beneficial to have an experienced SSI attorney advocating on your behalf.
But what should you look for in an attorney, to help maximize your chance of a positive outcome for your SSI case?
Let’s take a closer look at a step-by-step process of choosing an SSI attorney who’s right for you.
Defining Your Needs
It’s first important to understand why you’re hiring an SSI attorney.
- What do you expect to gain from their services?
- Do you have special circumstances with a disability or other need that you need an attorney to help you navigate?
- What will be your role and how will they guide you through it?
You may want to begin the application process with the SSA yourself, though if you find yourself frustrated with the SSI application process, an attorney can help.
Also, the more you research and understand SSI up front, the better. This allows your attorney to focus on what they do best, which is to advocate on your behalf with the SSA and guide you through the process once you’ve applied.
SSI attorneys will guide you and advocate for you during hearings and appeals, but you will still be the person going through the process and you retain ultimate control of your case.
The Cost of Hiring an Attorney for SSI
Cost likely tops your list of concerns when it comes to hiring an attorney. The bottom line for most people who hire a lawyer is: Can I afford this service?
In some cases, you may be asked to pay a nominal amount for initial case costs. This is to cover the cost of things like obtaining medical and work records. However, federal law dictates that your attorney’s fee is limited to 25% of the past-due benefits–or back pay– you are awarded, or $6,000, whichever is lower. If you file a contingency fee agreement of this nature with the SSA, the attorney will not receive a fee if you don’t win any benefits.
Want a free consultation? Contact Affleck & Gordon’s SSI attorneys.
Initial meetings are a good time to interview a lawyer to determine who is the best fit for your case (more on this below).
Let’s discuss first how to narrow down a list of viable SSI lawyers to interview.
How to Find SSI Attorneys
Googling SSI attorneys in Georgia can quickly give you access to a large list of potential lawyers.
However, regardless of who pops up during your search, seek lawyers who are local, experienced in SSI law, and have a good reputation.
The best way to find the right lawyer for you is to check with people you know who’ve had good results with an SSI attorney. If you can get a personal recommendation, this will give you insight into what it’s like working with a certain lawyer and the results of that person’s case.
In addition, consider the following options:
- the Georgia Bar Association’s lawyer referral service
- a university legal clinic
- checking sites such as the Better Business Bureau
- other reputable recommendations or reviews you come across
Before you hire one of these attorneys, take the opportunity to set up interviews to ask questions.
Questions to Ask During an Initial Interview
When you sit down with a lawyer, you want to determine if they are a good fit for your case’s needs.
Here are some questions you can ask to help choose an attorney for SSI.
- What is your primary area of practice? How much experience do you have winning SSI benefits for clients?
- How much will your services cost upfront? How about once my case is complete?
- What percentage of SSI cases have you won for your clients?
- What is your experience with local Administrative Law Judges and courts?
- How many approvals have you won once a case goes to hearing?
- What is your experience with clients with my specific medical condition?
- What access will I have access to a case manager and support staff?
- What level of communication will you keep with me about my case?
- Can I easily get in touch if I have specific questions throughout the case?
- Given what I’ve told you about my case, what are your initial thoughts about potential outcomes and next steps?
You may have additional questions that are important to you and your case. For instance, you may be seeking SSI benefits for a child.
Be sure to write out your questions in a notebook you take to each interview. You can jot down important notes during your discussions as well.
The more you put into choosing an SSI attorney, the more likely they’ll be able to help you reach a favorable outcome for your claim.
If your Supplemental Security Income claim or your Social Security Disability Insurance claim have been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 45 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.