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Q&A: Disability benefits may be approved more quickly with an attorney

The Social Security Administration’s disability benefit system is currently heavily backlogged. Simply applying and hoping to attain benefits may leave many claimants in limbo for months, if not longer.

While hiring an attorney will not guarantee disability benefits, Harold Conick of the Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates has been helping people get benefits for more than 30 years and knows his way around the system. We asked Mr. Conick a few questions about how hiring an attorney could help an applicant get their benefits quickly.

Q: How slow is the SSA’s process without an attorney?

Conick: It’s probably the same process, there’s really no distinction. But where the attorney adds value is the ability to narrow the issues concerning what is keeping the claimant from working and supplying evidence to support that. This might help to speed things up. We can also write memorandums requesting an early decision citing significant medical evidence on disability law applicable to medical evidence.

Regular people just aren’t going to know to do that. They’ll fill out the forms, they’ll answer the questions on the forms, but that may not be enough to get them benefits quickly.

Q: What do you do as counsel to make things easier and better for applicants?

Conick: Direct them to treating medical sources so they can get additional opinions to support their claim for disability. I also suggest that hey see a specialist to give reports on their condition that might be supportive of disability claims. We may get an expert to give an opinion; it might even be their own treating physician. Doctors don’t always give you the evidence that you need on your own. Sometimes you have to ask questions of them to get what the court wants.

Q: What can a client expect when working with you?

Conick: Zealous advocacy. Through preparation. Expeditious processing of their claim.

Q: Does approval come easier with counsel?

Conick: It has been shown through statistics kept by SSA that claimants have a better chance of prevailing with a lawyer rather than on their own. Preparing the evidence, trying to gather all the evidence and presenting it in a way that supports their case is what we’re supposed to be doing as lawyers.

Q: With or without an attorney, there will likely be a wait for benefits due to the backlog. What can people do for money?

Conick: That’s a problem. Hopefully their family supports them. They can end up using their resources up, including credit and savings. Sometimes they get unemployment, sometimes they have a pension. But if they’re on their own. there’s no help from the government usually. It does definitely interfere with the ability of the person to wait for the benefits It’s a catch-22; they can’t work but they’ve run out of resources. The backlog is hard on them.

Q: Anything else to know?

Conick: Once somebody gets to the point of the hearing, it takes the judge about 30 to 60 days to make a decision. There then may be appeals after that depending on how it goes. It could potentially go all the way to federal court.