Noell Black: Hello, my name is Noell Black and I am a non-attorney representative here at Gardberg and Kemmerly. And I’m here to talk about your rights to representation in a Social Security disability claim. Our law firm handles both Social Security disability and VA law, but this is covering just Social Security cases at this time. So a couple of the top five questions that I hear from people, or really top four questions and some five issues about their rights to representation that I want to advise you on. One is what can a representative do for me? You may ask that question. Why do I need a representative? And there are a lot of reasons because once you appoint a representative, he or she can act on your behalf before Social Security by several different things. Getting information for you from your Social Security file. That Social Security information they have, helping you get medical records or information to support your claim, coming with you to hearings and conferences that Social Security schedules for you.

Noell Black: Requesting appeals such as reconsideration’s, hearings and appeals counsel reviews on your case, helping you and your witnesses prepare for a hearing. If you have to have a hearing before an administrative law judge and your representative will receive a copy of all the decisions and correspondence that Social Security sends to you, so they can answer and help you with questions on that should you have any questions about that.

Noell Black: Having an attorney or non-attorney representative to assist you is really in your best interest. It really is difficult to understand for the average person the process of having a Social Security disability claim and all that goes into it. You throw in a mental impairment, physical problems, lack of social support, family support, and all of the issues that go with that and it can be just really overwhelming, so having a representative really allows them to focus on handling these issues for you.

Noell Black: Both you and your representative are responsible for providing social security with accurate information. I do want to say it is illegal to provide false information knowingly or willingly and if you do, you can face criminal prosecution. So having a representative who knows what is needed can be invaluable to a disability claim and we have covered what is needed in the claim in other episodes. If you want to look back and see what you need for a disability claim, I encourage you to do that.

Noell Black: Secondly, how do I go about choosing a representative? Social Security has different venues that you can go and look at. They can sometimes give you a list of representatives that are qualified in your area. You can choose an attorney or a other qualified individual to represent you. You can even have more than one representative in a law firm or in a group if you want to.

Noell Black: By law, the Social Security will not allow you to appoint someone though, who has been suspended or disqualified from representing others. Some organizations can also help you find people that would represent you with free legal services. And one of my recommendations to people would be to look at word of mouth. There are a lot of large law firms and national companies that can invest a lot of money in advertising in order to get your case. But unfortunately, once they have your case, I have seen these same companies not invest the time in your case to win it. I don’t understand it, but I see it all the time where their representatives show up at the hearing, they don’t know about the case, they don’t know the claimant, they don’t know what’s going on and they don’t know what it takes to win your individual case. So I would recommend that you talk to someone who has actually used a local company such as Gardberg & Kemmerly, and let them know what their success was and that they had a good outcome with their disability case.

Noell Black: Word of mouth is really the best venue I think for finding a good representative for your claim. And it doesn’t mean that you’re always in contact with that representative or attorney. But here at Gardberg & Kemmerly we have a group of staff that is constantly able to talk to you and handle things for you.

Noell Black: The third thing, and this is probably what keeps a lot of people from finding a representative, what is it going to cost me? And so Social Security sets forth the fees the representative or attorney can charge and that should be pretty much across the board. So you shouldn’t find a big difference going from Social Security … Different Social Security attorneys and law firms. They should be pretty similar and Social Security has to approve your representative’s fee agreement and that they have to file in order to charge and represent you. So most law firms and Social Security representatives do not charge unless they win your case. And so I would encourage you to look for representation that is similar along those lines.

Noell Black: Lastly, what are my rights? And I just want to go over a lot of information that describes what your rights are so that you are clear on this. When you go to the Social Security office or the hearing office for Social Security, if you do not have a representative, the first thing the office or the officer or the judge should do is advise you of those rights to representation. And they do this because they want to be sure that you understand the process. If you have a learning disability or you have someone you know that is filing for disability and they have a learning disability, then I encourage you to have someone help you understand what your rights are, or to help them understand what their rights are, Because it is very important that you do understand this.

Noell Black: If you decide not to get a representative, the officer or judge will have you sign a waiver of your right to representation and that is stating that you understood your right and you waived that process anyways. And Social Security does that because they understand that there is just too many details, rules, regulations, and it’s just difficulty navigating the process for the average person to undertake.

Noell Black: Another thing I want to make it very clear on is that you have right to representation from the very beginning of your case. We have so many people that come in to us and ask us for help with their claim. Maybe even before they file the application and they go to Social Security and then Social Security says, “Why did you get an attorney? You don’t need an attorney. Wait until you’re denied.” Or they go to the Social Security office and ask the Social Security office about getting an attorney, and the worker there says, “No, wait until you’re denied.”

Noell Black: Why should you wait until you’re denied? About 80% of the initial claims get denied. Don’t let your case be of that 80%. It is never a waste of time to try to win a case from the very beginning. I cannot stress this enough. Our law firm, we start from the very beginning of a case. We acquire medical records. We look at what your disabilities are and what is needed to win that case and I just do not see why you would not want to do that from the very beginning. Why wait until you’re denied and have to wait for a hearing? In many cases you may have to go for a hearing, but it’s always worth a try to try and do that at the beginning.

Noell Black: If you have to go to a hearing and you have not gotten a representative up until that point, know that the judge will ask questions in a hearing that you may or may not understand the meaning behind. And typically in all adult cases, a vocational expert is going to be in that hearing to testify at the hearing about jobs and what your vocational history has been and your vocational potential is. And understanding all that is very difficult. And I know that I didn’t know it before I got into Social Security, so it’s not something that your average person would know, but your representative should also know and be willing and know how to handle those questions and what to do in a hearing setting.

Noell Black: There’s just a lot that goes into filing a claim for Social Security and we just wanted to take this time to tell you to know your rights, to know you have a right to a representative, you have a right to have someone help you with that claim. You have a right to have someone to fight on your behalf and that is what we want to do here at Gardberg & Kemmerly. So if you have a claim for disability or you know someone who needs help with a disability claim, please call us today at 251-343-1111 or 1-800-332-1529. You can reach us on the web at www.GardbergLaw.com. Thank you for joining us today. I’m Noell Black with Gardberg & Kemmerly and I look forward to working with you.