By Cheryl Coon
The information provided in this article is intended to give a general overview of the topic and is not intended as legal advice. For information specific to your situation, please talk with your Social Security/Disability professional.
Article #7, How to Choose a Lawyer to Represent You in a Disability Case
If you watch late night television, you’ve seen the ads. You see the haggard face of a client; the stern face of a judge. Then a lawyer’s face appears, claiming that he can win your disability case and urging you to call now. If you are in the process of trying to decide who you want to represent you in your disability claim, it is important to know that not all disability representatives are created equal. As you look for someone to represent you on your claim, keep in mind that both attorneys and non-attorney representatives are allowed to do this work.
However, if your case has to be appealed to federal court – and many cases are not won until federal court – your non-attorney representative cannot assist you there. It’s also important to understand that your hearing is the only time you get to appear in person and your attorney gets to present arguments. An appeal to federal court is based on what happened at the hearing – so it’s critical that it be done right at that time, with an understanding of how to build a record.
Here are some good questions to ask when you talk with an attorney or representative you’re considering:
–Do you represent anyone who asks you to?
–Can you assist me with my initial application for disability, including the work history and function reports?
– Will your law firm obtain medical records or will I be asked to provide these?
– Will you prepare a legal brief for the judge in advance of my hearing?
– Will you work with my doctor to prepare an opinion letter or will you simply send out a form for my doctor to fill out?
– Will I meet with an attorney before my hearing?
–Does that attorney have experience in this area of the law?
–Are you able to represent me in district court, if necessary?
The attorney you select to represent you at the hearing can make a big difference in the outcome, so don’t make this decision without seriously considering who you are hiring! Remember, the law says that you do not owe a legal fee unless your lawyer wins your case, so don’t be swayed by folks who say they offer free consultations – they have to!
Cheryl Coon previously led the social security disability section of Swanson Thomas Coon & Newton of Portland, Oregon, where she represented disabled individuals seeking benefits, at all stages of the process from application to federal court appeals.
In June 2016, Cheryl Coon founded RDBO. Refugee Disability Benefits of Oregon. RDBO takes a unique approach, in which attorney Cheryl Coon, works closely with health care providers, case managers and counselors, as well as the refugees they serve, to ensure that refugees’ cases are presented competently and compassionately. We handle cases at every step of the disability process, from initial application to hearing to federal court.
The social security disability process can be frustrating. We believe it is important for potential applicants to be realistic about their chances for approval. We carefully evaluate the merits of each person’s case and suggest alternatives when we do not believe their case is strong. These alternatives may range from vocational assistance to waiting until a stronger medical record has been established.