Maybe you’re just getting started filing your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim. Or maybe you’re appealing a denial of your benefits. Regardless of what stage your case is in, there often comes a time when you consider whether to call a lawyer.
While a lawyer can statistically improve your chances of winning benefits, it’s important to find the right legal representation for your case. In addition, local lawyers often have insights into how Social Security hearings are decided in Georgia and may be able to more effectively advocate for you.
This may leave you wondering, “How do I find the best SSDI lawyers near me?”
Aside from doing a quick Google search like the one that brought you to this article, there are certain qualities to seek out in a Social Security disability attorney to maximize your chances of winning benefits.
For most Social Security disability cases, you won’t pay an upfront attorney’s fee when you hire a lawyer. Instead, your attorney will be paid a fixed percentage of your initial earned benefits check, no more than $6,000. Your attorney will only be paid if you win your case.
That’s why it’s important to find the best attorney to represent you at each stage of your SSDI claim.
Do I Qualify for SSDI?
There are some basic requirements you must meet in order to qualify for SSDI benefits.
As opposed to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), SSDI is an earned benefit. You must typically acquire a certain number of work credits by paying Social Security taxes over a certain number of years of being employed.
According to the SSA, to qualify for SSDI: “Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you became disabled.”
You must also currently not be earning above a certain amount of monthly income ($1,310 as a non-blind disabled individual, or $2,190 if you are blind).
Using medical evidence such as doctor's notes, test, and imaging results, details of medications and therapies, and written medical opinions, you must prove your disability prevents you from working for a year or more.
The right lawyer can guide you through the SSDI application process, ensuring you provide the right evidence and file all paperwork correctly and on time.
Yet, nearly two-thirds of those who apply for benefits are initially denied and must file for appeals. Your best chance to overturn a denial is usually during an appeals hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
A lawyer can advocate on your behalf and significantly improve your chances during your hearing. Here’s how to find the best SSDI lawyer for your case.
Where to Start
Often, finding the right local SSDI lawyer in Georgia starts with a Google search or a personal recommendation from someone close to you.
Some other helpful options include:
- 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
However, it’s important not to choose an attorney based solely off of the top search listing or even a strong recommendation. You want a lawyer who has the right qualifications and local track record to help with the unique circumstances of your disability claim.
What to Look for in an SSDI Lawyer
Since many firms offer a free initial case evaluation, this is a good opportunity to interview them and find the best fit for your needs.
Here’s what to look for in an attorney.
Local Experience with Georgia SSDI Cases
A national law group may have an impressive number of wins racked up, and they may offer you promises of a “sure thing” in winning your claim—but there are significant advantages to seeking out those with local experience first and foremost.
It’s especially important to ask about their experience winning approvals at the hearing level. That’s because this is the level of appeal where you have the best chance of reversing a denial of benefits. During hearings, an attorney can cross-examine witnesses, present evidence, and advocate for you.
Local SSDI lawyers will have direct day-to-day experience with judges and court personnel in Georgia, which can lead to important insights about expectations during these proceedings and what strategies are most likely to lead to a win. Judges may be more willing to hear what an attorney has to say when they know and trust that attorney’s professional character.
An SSDI Lawyer You Can Trust
The percentage of SSDI approvals a firm has won for their clients and their experience with your particular type of condition are clearly important factors in choosing the right lawyer.
However, beyond this, it’s important to choose a lawyer you feel you can trust. This often comes down to dedication, character, and the level of accessibility attorneys offer their clients.
Trustworthy attorneys are always honest. They don’t offer false promises of guaranteed or quick wins. They are willing to give you the truth no matter what it is so that you have a clear idea of what to expect every step of the way.
Above all else, the best SSDI lawyers in Georgia will always make their clients their priority. They may offer access to case managers and support staff, and should otherwise always keep you informed about where your case is currently and the next steps. When you have questions, you should be able to pick up the phone and know your attorney will always find the answers.
If your Social Security Disability Insurance claim has 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 at (404) 990-3945.