Disability Appeals
I started handling disability claims for veterans as a volunteer through the Ohio Military/Veterans Legal Assistance Project and found the work deeply satisfying.  Over time, I expanded my disability practice to include Social Security disability appeals for the same reason.  I am now authorized to practice before both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration, and would be happy to talk to you about your disability claim.

The Initial Application

  • Both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration make it sound like you don’t need help to submit your initial disability application, and most people do apply without a lawyer’s help.  If you decide to submit the initial application on your own, you can to it on-line here (Social Security) and here (Veterans).  The agency will process your claim and will ask you for whatever information they need.  They may even send you for an independent medical examination.  The process can be complicated and can take a long time, and many people find that having a legal representative is helpful even at this early stage.  If you are considering filing a claim, give me a call.
  • The reality is that most initial applications are denied.  This is true whether you have a lawyer or not.  Where a lawyer can really make a difference is at the appeal stage. 


Appeals
How does it work?

  • Although the details differ, the overall process is similar for appeals to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration.  In both cases you will get a notice of a decision.  That notice will include instructions on what forms to fill out if you want to appeal and a deadline for submitting those forms. 


Can I do it without a lawyer?

  • You can, but you probably shouldn’t.  At this stage you will need to assemble a persuasive case that the initial determination was wrong.  Assembling evidence and making a persuasive case is what lawyers do.  Hiring a lawyer at this stage will increase your chances of success.


Will I get a hearing before a judge?

  • Probably.  The first step will be an internal review by the agency, but reversals are rare at that stage.  Your best chance for a reversal is after a hearing before either a hearing officer or an administrative law judge.


How long does it take?

  • Whether you are before the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Social Security Administration, expect your appeal to take a long time – sometimes as long as two to three years.  It sounds crazy, but that’s the reality.  Both agencies are swamped, and both have huge backlogs. 


How much does it cost?

  • As a general rule, attorneys are paid a percentage of any back benefits awarded by the agency.  The Social Security Administration will pay those fees directly to the attorney as long as the fees are limited to 25% of back benefits with a $6,000 cap.  The Department of Veterans Affairs will pay the fees directly as long as the fee is limited to 20% of back benefits. 


What if we lose?

  • Fees are contingent on a successful outcome.  If you lose, there is no fee.


More questions?