When you hire an attorney to represent you in your Social Security disability claim, you are hiring that person and/or firm to take the burden of going through the process, off of your shoulders. Your attorney is now your partner – they will assist with paperwork, communicate with SSA on your behalf, and help you build the best case you can.
Therefore, ALWAYS keep your attorney apprised of your life situation. Some things may seem mundane and unimportant to your case, but they may actually have much more to do with your case than you ever imagined.
For example, if you get married, separated, or divorced, you need to alert your attorney. This is particularly important if you have a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim pending because it could disqualify you from benefits or qualify you for more benefits, depending on the situation. Getting separated or divorced may mean you need to file an additional application for SSI benefits. Or if you begin receiving child support payments, you may be disqualified. It is important for your attorney to know about these things when they happen, not right before the hearing.
Your attorney also needs to know if you start working or volunteering, even if it is only for a few hours per week. You are entitled to certain periods of work with no consequences, but your attorney needs to know how much you are working in order to keep track of the hours, pay, etc. If you volunteer, it can be construed as work, so your attorney needs to be aware of that.
If you are in any sort of educational program, let your attorney know. Again, education can sometimes be equivalent to full time work so it is important to let your attorney know and discuss it with him or her so you are aware of the benefits and draw backs that come with going to school.
Any time you see new doctors, go to the hospital, or enter into any inpatient facility or visit an Emergen Room, CALL your attorney! In order to make sure your file is complete and up to date for the judges, your attorney must know all treatment that is received, even if you only see a doctor once. Conversely, if your doctor stops treating you, your insurance runs out, or you lose your access to indigent care, please let your attorney know so he or she can assist you in finding another source of medical care.
If you go to jail or prison, please notify your attorney. Again, if the attorney is aware of this information prior to the hearing, he or she has more time to gather information and determine how it will affect your disability case. Not knowing this type of information can be harmful to your claim.
If you are diligent in keeping your attorney apprised of all of the information regarding your medical and employment status, as well as any other aspects of your life that may be important to your disability case, the better your attorney can prepare a complete, thorough case to present to the Administrative Law Judge in your case. This thorough preparation gives yourself the best chance at being awarded your disability benefits. Many attorneys and non-attorney representatives show up at your hearing and meet you or talk to you for the first time, and this is likely the first time they see your file. Not the Board Certified attorneys at Morgan & Weisbrod! We are almost obsessive when it comes to knowing every detail of your case, and making sure we have made it as strong as possible. You should trust your disability claim to the experts who put in the time and effort to make sure your claim is successful, and who value your input as part of the team!
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.