Austin Disability Benefits Lawyer At The Bob Richardson Law Firm Says New Report Emphasizes Importance Of Representation When Filing SSD Claims

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A report by the Social Security Advisory Board underscores that legal representation can improve the likelihood of a an initial approval of SSDI and SSI claims, according to Don Cotton, a Texas Social Security disability attorney.

Austin Social Security disability lawyer Don Cotton

The Social Security Advisory Board has made it clear that being represented by a professional makes a noticeable difference in approval rates.

Texas Social Security disability benefits lawyer Don R. Cotton said today that a recent report shows that having professional representation in the application process can have a significant impact on whether a claim is initially approved by the Social Security Administration.

The report was prepared by the Social Security Advisory Board with the aim of determining whether representation increased the likelihood of an eligible applicant being awarded benefits and whether representation resulted in quicker processing of applications.

“The Social Security Advisory Board indicated that having a representative at the initial claims stage resulted in a higher allowance rate,” said Cotton, a disability benefits attorney with The Bob Richardson Law Firm in Austin, Texas. “An allowance means that the claim was approved and benefits were awarded.”

The Advisory Board focused on the impact of representation in the application process because the vast majority of disability claims are determined at the initial level. In 2011, for example, disability claims examiners made 3.4 million final decisions on medical disability claims. By contrast, administrative law judges addressed only 800,000 appealed claims that year.

“Having your claim approved initially is very, very important,” Cotton said. “When you get to the appeals process, the average wait time for a hearing is one year. That means 12 months with no Social Security disability checks coming in, even if you deserve them.”

Many claimants are not successful in their initial application. Outgoing Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue commented in a recent Associated Press interview that the approval rate for disability benefits is usually somewhere in the 35-40 percent range, and this rate has been declining in recent years. This means that more than half of all SSD applicants will have their initial claims denied. Astrue explained that the high denial rate is due to stringent statutory standards.

However, Cotton said he believes that many claimants are denied benefits because they haven’t provided the right information in the right way.

“There are a lot of people who qualify, but who just do not know how to present the comprehensive details that the Social Security Administration is looking for. These denials are the most upsetting because people who deserve the benefits don’t get them just because they didn’t know how to fill out an application in a specific way,” he said.

The Advisory Board’s data back this up. Those with a representative at the initial claims stage were more likely to have their claims approved, likely because they were able to craft stronger applications that better showcased their eligibility for benefits.

The good news is that an experienced SSD lawyer can increase the likelihood of an initial approval by making sure that a claimant’s application is in order, Cotton said. His law firm helps clients with their initial applications to ensure that they have the medical records they need, that they are thorough in completing the application and that they do everything possible to get approval the first time their case is reviewed.

“The Social Security Advisory Board has made it clear that being represented by a professional makes a noticeable difference in approval rates,” Cotton said.

The Advisory Board’s report indicated that the biggest difference was in approval for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, which is a means-tested program that assists disabled people who have little income and few assets. However, being represented also made a difference in approval ratings for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits as well. Eligibility for that program is based on an applicant’s work history, not economic status.

“Attorneys who are specifically trained in applying for disability benefits, and who are held to a high standard of competence by their professional ethical code, are the best advocates,” Cotton said.

The Advisory Board evidence lends support to Cotton’s position that attorneys play a unique role as advisers, as the Board points out that attorneys have been involved in the SSA claims process since 1939, while nonprofit and for-profit organizations are relatively new players. Further, the Advisory Board also indicates that attorneys are subject to a “particular set of rules and responsibilities as representatives” that imply the “representatives understand the significant issues in their cases and have a working knowledge of the applicable provisions” of Social Security law.

Cotton encouraged claimants to consult with an SSD lawyer such as those at his firm. He also urged people who did not get help at the initial stage to seek legal advice about appealing if they are one of the many who are denied.

About The Bob Richardson Law Firm

The Bob Richardson Law Firm is a highly respected Texas personal injury and Social Security disability law firm. The firm is dedicated to providing skilled and professional legal services to clients in cases involving car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, drunk driving accidents, construction accidents, workplace accidents and slip-and-fall accidents as well as representation to those seeking benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The firm features offices in Austin and Waco and assists clients throughout Round Rock, Georgetown, Killeen, Temple, Cedar Park, Lakeway, Taylor, Belton and surrounding Texas communities. The firm’s principal office is located at 812 San Antonio St., Suite 300, Austin, TX 78701 (local phone (512) 472-5100). To learn more about The Bob Richardson Law Firm, call (800) 880-5100 or use the firm’s online contact form.

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