I’m often asked this question by prospective clients and the answer is complicated. Most representatives do a great job working on behalf of their clients. But, there are representatives that actually do harm to their client’s cases. Sometimes this is through no fault of their own. A perfect example is the representative that works for a large firm or so-called “national firm.” These firms spend millions of dollars advertising on television, radio and on the internet. Their sole purpose is to bring in as many clients as possible. And, unfortunately, they are doing this in record numbers. However, when it comes to putting resources into providing representation for their clients, they fall short. Here are some questions that I recommend every client ask their representative:
- How many cases do you handle? You may be surprised to learn that your representative has several hundred cases in his/her inventory. Is it possible for one person to handle this many cases and still be prepared to represent you in your claim? Often, the tell-tale sign that they are overloaded with work is whether they keep in close contact with you, return your phone calls timely, and are willing to meet with you if necessary. If you have questions that are not being answered appropriately or timely, this may be a sign that your representative is overloaded and has too many cases to manage. Or, it could mean that he/she does not have the necessary resources and staffing to handle their caseload.
- Will you provide SSA with updated medical records at every level of the appeals process? Believe it or not, there are many representatives that will tell you that getting your records before the hearing is scheduled is a waste of time. But, the fact is without documentation to support your claim for disability, SSA cannot approve your case. If your representative updates your medical evidence consistently and requests SSA to review these records, oftentimes cases will get approved without having to go before a judge. Sitting on your case and not updating your records is another sure sign that your representative is either too busy with his/her caseload, or he/she just isn’t concerned about your case.
- Does your representative listen to you? It is important that your representative understands why you are unable to work. This seems like an obvious consideration, but all too often representatives do not understand your case or the reasons that you are not able to work. You should have a good rapport with your representative and you should feel like they are on your side. Many representatives become “jaded” after representing claimants. They don’t listen to you and are going through the motions hoping they get a good judge.
- Will your representative adequately prepare you to testify at your hearing? Again, this seems like a simple thing to expect. Will your representative meet with you or call you well in advance of your hearing in order to prepare you to testify? If not, will SSA have all of the facts? Probably not. Representatives are paid a fee out of the benefits that are awarded to you on your claim. The representative should be willing to spend time with you and be prepared to represent you at your hearing.
Of course, there are many other questions to ask your representative before you hire him/her. These are the most obvious. Your relationship with the representative should be a good “fit” for you. And you should feel confident that he/she is doing everything possible to get your claim approved.
If you need assistance or have questions about a social security disability claim, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly on my cell phone at 407-738-3718.