It’s important to prepare for your first appointment with a Social Security Disability lawyer. In order to understand your claim, the lawyer needs to have accurate and detailed information. While every lawyer has his or her own interview process, this is a list of common questions.

When Was Your Social Security Application Denied?

When you meet, the lawyer will want to know the status of your claim. If you have been denied Social Security disability, it is important to file a timely appeal. Typically, you must appeal a disability or SSI denial within a certain period of time, depending on the laws of your State. Under most circumstances, your appeal will be rejected if you file after this deadline. 

If you have a copy of your Social Security denial (or any other Social Security letters or files), bring it with you to your first appointment. This information will help your lawyer understand the status of your claim and issues in your case.  

Do You Have Financial Resources or Income?

Your financial stability may impact your Social Security claim. First, if you are homeless, your lawyer may be able to speed up the appeal process. Under certain circumstances, a Social Security hearing office may agree to expedite an appeal for dire financial need.

Additionally, if you have limited financial resources, you may be entitled to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. There are two kinds of Social Security disability benefits: 

SSDI is an earned program, based on your work history and earnings. SSI is based on financial need. Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible for both Social Security disability and SSI.

Have You Applied for Social Security Disability in the Past?

Sometimes, a previous denial of benefits may impact a new application or appeal. This is particularly true if you had a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) in the past. If your Social Security disability was denied after a hearing, try to bring the judge’s decision with you. 

What Medical Conditions Are Disabling?

Medical evidence is the core of any Social Security disability claim. You cannot receive Social Security disability benefits unless your medical conditions prevent you from working. Social Security relies heavily on medical records when evaluating disability claims. When you meet with a lawyer, make sure you report all of your serious medical conditions. You should also provide a list of your doctors and other medical providers (like physical therapists, mental health counselors, and chiropractors). 

When Did Your Medical Conditions Start to Impact Your Work?

Your lawyer’s goal is to maximize your Social Security benefits. Typically, you cannot receive Social Security benefits while you are working full-time. However, there are certain circumstances when your work may not be considered earned income. If your work was significantly accommodated or reduced before you stopped working, you may be entitled to an earlier disability onset date (and more benefits).

What Does Your Resume Look Like? 

Your education and work experience are also an important part of a Social Security disability claim. Your eligibility for Social Security is based (in part) on whether you are capable of doing work within your training and qualifications. This assessment requires a detailed understanding of your education and work experience. Social Security hires vocational experts to evaluate your work and education. Your lawyer must be prepared to cross-examine these experts and present accurate evidence.

Have You Struggled with Substance Abuse?

Although addiction is a legitimate medical condition, you cannot receive Social Security disability benefits if your only disabling condition is substance abuse. However, Social Security also uses substance abuse as an excuse to deny valid disability claims. While it may be embarrassing, be honest with your lawyer. It is important that he or she is prepared to address your history of substance abuse.  

What Should I Bring to a Meeting with a Lawyer?

Again, it is important to bring your Social Security denial letter and any other letters or files from Social Security to your first appointment. Your lawyer typically cannot file an appeal (called a Request for Hearing) without the date of your denial letter. Additionally, your lawyer may want to see:

  • Medical records,
  • Work restriction slips,
  • Information about your medications, and
  • Paperwork from other disability claims (such as workers’ compensation or short-term disability).

This information will help the lawyer evaluate and understand your Social Security claim. 

Where Can I Find the Right Lawyer?

Hiring a lawyer is an important decision.  For many disabled workers, Social Security claims are too complicated to handle alone. A local government lawyer can help you understand your rights, apply for disability benefits, and appeal a denial.