youre-firedIt’s Been MONTHS and my Lawyer Still Says to Wait

There’s a complaint we hear frequently from potential clients who contact us and request a case transfer from another lawyer. The common complaint is that their first lawyer is taking too long and it’s been months since they have worked on their case. In many instances the person contacting us is in a dire financial situation and has waited over a year to get a disability hearing date.

But is it the disability attorney’s fault that the case seems to be lingering?

 

Hurry up and Wait

Law, by its very nature is slow and the Social Security Administration seems even slower. There are thousands of disability applications filed every day, adding to the caseload of Administration personnel who have already been buried in piles of paperwork. Seemingly adding insult to injury is the SSA’s own deadline of sixty days to file appeals. It seems like applicants are rushed to complete paperwork, but then made to wait for many more months to hear any type of result.

Wait Times

In October, 2015, the average wait time for a disability hearing was fifteen months after a disability denial was appealed. This means that your lawyer filed an appeal for your case, but then, along with you, must wait about a year and a half before the hearing. It is usually during this time that most clients feel that they are getting left behind and some even think they are possibly being scammed by a non-working attorney. In almost every scenario, there is no scam. Everyone- you and us- is waiting for the SSA to catch up to your case.

But I Heard…

A potential client may say that a friend of theirs had not heard from their lawyer for many months, got tired of waiting and switched attorneys. Amazingly the new attorney got a hearing date within two months of the switch. I hate being the bearer of bad news, but having a hearing date so soon after changing attorneys had nothing whatsoever to do with the new attorney.

Here’s How it Works

When your first attorney filed your appeal, the paperwork was placed on the bottom of the pile. It takes an average of 15 months for the bottom of the pile to get to the top of the pile. When you change attorneys, the paperwork does not jump from its position in the pile to the top; rather it continues its slow journey upward. However, it also does not go lower. Thus, if you have been waiting 13 months already, in about two more months you will have your hearing whether you change attorneys or not.

Changing Attorneys May Cause a Money Delay

The Social Security Administration will withhold a portion of the initial benefits award to pay your lawyer. The amount withheld is 25% up to $6,000 of the initial benefit. More than this may be withheld if the Administration believes costs may be higher. Such is the case when more than one attorney may file a claim to the withheld amount. Nearly every attorney’s contract stipulates that they will receive a portion of awarded attorney’s fees even if you switch to another attorney. Therefore, the Administration may hold back a higher percentage while it waits for each lawyer to file their claim. The end result is that some of your money may be held back for as long as four months, possibly even longer.

When Should I Change SSDI Lawyers?

A perceived delay in getting to a hearing is not a reason to change attorneys. Except in a couple of specific circumstances a lawyer cannot hurry the process along and obtain a hearing date any sooner than the wait time for your area. However, there are a couple of reasons in which you should consider finding a different representative.

The first instance to find another attorney is if your lawyer asks you to do something illegal like falsify paperwork to increase your opportunity to be approved. Even if you refuse to follow through with the request, the attorney may be investigated for fraud at a later date, your case may be re-opened, closer scrutiny of your claim may take place and your benefits may also be put in jeopardy.

Another reason to change attorneys is if your attorney truly is not working with you. Understand that most lawyers are busy, and as described above may go long periods without communication, but if you call or email several times with no response then you might consider getting a lawyer that will help you build your case.

Chugging Along…

The wheels of the SSA move slowly. During the fifteen or so months while waiting for your disability hearing you can help your case by attending all scheduled doctor’s appointments and following their orders. Follow through if your attorney asks that you take tests or see specialists. Above all, understand that you may not hear from your lawyer for several months during the waiting period and this is quite normal.

 

 

 

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About the Cochran Firm Disability Lawyers
Recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms, The Cochran Firm handles cases on behalf of clients seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice, Bankruptcy Attorney in Atlanta or Social Security Disability Lawyer.The Firm can be reached at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out the form on this page. “Working for You.” Article by Benjamin A. Irwin, Esq.


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