Every month the federal government takes a certain percentage from your paycheck to cover you in case you ever need to go on disability. But what most people don’t know is that getting the disability you paid into the system for all those years is not very easy! Most people need the help of a disability attorney or advocate to ensure they actually receive the benefits they deserve. However, because a disability lawyer will only be paid if and when they prevail in your disability case, they often turn down cases that do not stand a good chance of securing a benefit award.
Disability attorneys work essentially on a contingency basis. This means that they are paid only if successful in a given case. Therefore, even the best disability lawyers in North Carolina will only accept the cases where they know they have a good chance of winning. It just does not make sense for them to represent claimants that lack a strong case for benefits or if their case is unlikely to result in substantial retroactive pay recovery from which the lawyer would be paid directly by the Social Security Administration.
As such, disability attorneys and their staff take great care in reviewing potential cases prior to accepting clients, and if a case is simply too weak in their view, it very well may be rejected.
- Characteristics Of A Weak Social Security Disability Case
- Absence Of Strong Supporting Medical Evidence
- Dishonesty Of The Claimant
- Claimant Younger Than 45 Years Of Age
- Failure To Provide Sufficient Lead Time
- Aggressive Or Rude Demeanor
- History Of Conflict With Attorneys
- Legal Or Other Ineligibility For SSI/SSDI Benefits
- Handling SSI Matters
- Unemployment Benefit Collection
- How To Proceed If I Am Unable To Secure Representation
Characteristics Of A Weak Social Security Disability Case
There are frequently signs along the way that a lawyer will see as indicative of a weak case or another problem with a claimant’s facts that reveal the unlikelihood of prevailing. There are several categories into which these may fall.
The first has to do with weaknesses in the argument for medical benefit eligibility. A lawyer may deem your case too difficult if one or more of these elements are present:
1. An absence of supporting medical evidence even though diagnostic testing has been performed;
2. Failure to obtain consistent and ongoing medical care;
3. Medical providers declining to offer supportive testimony;
4. Claimant younger than 45 years of age;
5. Claimant currently claiming unemployment benefits;
6. Claimant indicates that other lawyers refused to accept their case;
7. Claimant does not have SSI/SSDI eligibility
Another area of concern has to do with the applicant’s own characteristics. Lawyers might decide to reject a case if he or she believes the client is dishonest or difficult. Evidence of this could involve:
1. Dishonest or changing statements;
2. Facts suggesting that the claimant is falsifying or exaggerating an affliction;
3. Failure of the claimant to follow prescribed treatments;
4. Claimant being dropped by a prior disability lawyer;
5. Unrealistic demands or expectations in the case;
6. Unpleasant or aggressive demeanor toward lawyer or support staff.
Financial and/or logistical reasons may also exist that can cause an attorney to decline representation of a disability claimant. These could include:
1. Claimant having essentially fired their first disability lawyer;
2. Failure to provide sufficient lead time prior to a hearing;
3. Facts that reveal nothing more than a low or non-paying SSI back payment.
It is sometimes possible for issues of the nature described above to be sufficiently addressed if presented honestly, but this is not always the case. Below is a more comprehensive discussion of the red flags that may preclude an attorney’s acceptance of a disability case.
Absence Of Strong Supporting Medical Evidence
When good reasons exist for a claimant’s failure to obtain ongoing medical care and treatment, it is possible that an attorney will still accept their matter. This scenario could unfold if a claimant has lacked medical insurance for a lengthy period of time or cannot qualify for assistance. Claimants able to present older medical records in support of their condition may be successful in obtaining representation. A lawyer may, in fact, be able to assist in securing new treatment or testing for that claimant. If you have not been able to visit a doctor for quite some time, make certain to tell the lawyer exactly why there are holes in your medical history. Let the attorney know that you are prepared to do whatever it takes to get appropriate treatment. To learn more, read our piece on gathering medical evidence if there has been a lack of documented, ongoing treatment.
Dishonesty Of The Claimant
When a lawyer has a sense that a claimant has not been truthful or forthcoming, whether to a staffer, medical professional or anyone else involved in the process, the chances that he or she will move forward with representation are slim. This will be particularly true if there is medical documentation that reveals an attempt at exaggeration or fabrication of the condition. Therefore, it is vital that you act in a candid and honest manner with doctors as well as the attorney you want to provide representation, even if there are details that you believe are detrimental or perhaps even embarrassing.
Claimant Younger Than 45 Years Of Age
The fact of the matter is that it is tougher for claimants under age 45 to secure approval of their claim unless it is possible for them to demonstrate very serious illness or injury. As such, younger disability claimants need to have a far greater amount of medical evidence than they may anticipate. If this evidence does exist, an attorney needs to see it right away so that they can make an honest assessment of the case. To learn more, read our article on the connection between claimant age and disability benefit prospects.
Failure To Provide Sufficient Lead Time
It can sometimes be true that even those cases that appear quite strong on the merits will be rejected by an attorney if there is inadequate time available to prepare for a hearing. Lawyers are loathing to get involved in the case if they know they will be unprepared or unable to marshal key evidence by the hearing date. The Social Security Administration typically will not provide a new hearing date, absent an extremely persuasive rationale (such as serious illness). Thus, once a denial letter is received, it is best to get in touch with a lawyer right away.
Aggressive Or Rude Demeanor
Attorneys fully realize how stressful the process of seeking disability benefits can be. But, there is not going to be any tolerance of aggressive or abusive behavior aimed toward attorneys or their staff members. This is true even if the case at issue is extremely strong. Thus, if you know you crossed the line when dealing with your disability lawyer or a staff member, make amends quickly and thoroughly. The last thing you want is to be dropped as a client because you are unable to maintain a basic level of civility.
History Of Conflict With Attorneys
Those who have had prior representation in their disability matter often find it hard to obtain new counsel. One reason is simple professional courtesy. Furthermore, the same issues that cropped up with the first attorney tend to emerge with the next one as well. Also, complicating matters is the possibility that the second attorney would need to file a fee-splitting petition with the SSA after accepting your case. Therefore, if you had another attorney representing you in your case, make sure to disclose this fact to a potential new attorney. Explain what occurred with your former lawyer and do not disparage them.
Legal Or Other Ineligibility For SSI/SSDI Benefits
The fact of the matter is that not everyone qualifies to receive SSDI or SSI benefits, despite an obvious disability. This could be because a claimant lacks sufficient work credits under the SSKI rules, but also has income or assets in excess of the SSI threshold. To learn more about eligibility for these programs, read our detailed articles.
Handling SSI Matters
Disability lawyers receive payment only if they prevail on a claimant’s behalf, and they receive 25 percent (to a $6,000) of back payments won for their client. Someone who receives SSI approval is only able to receive back pay amounts from the date of approval to one month following the application’s filing. This is true even if it is determined that the disability happened well before the date of application. Thus, the fee recovery in a typical SSI case is quite small. There are also times when no attorney fees are awarded at all in an SSI matter.
Furthermore, monthly SSI payments tend to be lower than SSDI payments, making the attorney’s cut even smaller, with a recent survey revealing the average amount to be $2,900. Thus, when a lawyer conducts an SSI claim review and has significant doubts that a disability will be found, he or she may decline to represent that client altogether.
Unemployment Benefit Collection
It is common for disability attorneys to advise prospective clients against also collecting any unemployment benefits during the disability application process. However, it is not always the case that doing so is a bad idea, and this will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
How To Proceed If I Am Unable To Secure Representation
Whenever you learn that an attorney has declined to accept your disability case, make sure to inquire as to why they will not represent you. This offers you the chance to clarify any worrisome facts and address the lawyer’s concerns. You may be able to change the attorney’s mind in the end. Alternatively, you may gain a better understanding of how to improve your chances with the next lawyer you consult. If you would like to find disability attorneys near where you live, please feel free to use our lawyer locator tool.