Ethical Obligations of Social Security Lawyers

Claiming disability benefits is a long and tortuous process. The entire process can take two to three years. Completing each step correctly can be confusing and frustrating. Moreover, if you make a mistake at any point during this process, it could put you back a significant amount of time. If you’re in need of benefits, chances are you can’t afford the lost time. You’re not alone in this difficulty. Navigating the complexities of the social security system is herculean labor for lawyers and claimants alike.

However, lawyers have likely had much more experience with the system and may not find it as hard as a new claimant. A good lawyer can expedite the process. Nevertheless, a claimant should know the gist of the process and the responsibilities of their attorneys. Read on for an overview of the process.

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What is the Disability Fact-Finding Process like?

The fact-finding process essentially entails finding and evaluating the facts to see if the claimant meets the social security administration’s definition of ‘disabled’.

Disability is defined as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to any physical or mental impairment. This impairment must be medically verifiable. Moreover, it must either result in death or continuously last for over 12 months. Finally, substantial gainful activity is defined as any activity that generates a certain amount of income per month. The amount differs by year and disability.

What does a Social Security Disability Lawyer do?

A social security disability lawyer is not essential to the process of claiming disability benefits. You can fill out your disability benefits application yourself. However, they can make the application process much easier by solving any issues that arise during the process.

In a sentence, they act as a mediator between you and the SSA. Further, a disability lawyer will review your medical treatment and records to make sure your treatment records are complete and identify if further documentation is needed for your particular diagnosis.

Your attorney will evaluate your case and make sure your application is complete. This improves your odds of a successful claim in a few ways. First, your attorney can help improve your case after reviewing the facts by reworking your case and making its presentation more compelling. However, they cannot twist the facts to make the presentation more compelling. Second, by making sure your application process is complete, your attorney mitigates the most common reason for rejecting claims: incomplete applications.

After this, your attorney will deal with the majority of housekeeping and procedural work. They can evaluate and prioritize your medical documents, and inform you if any additional tests are needed. They’ll also collect useful testimonials from your healthcare providers. They’ll also keep in touch with the SSA and help you appeal your claim if it’s initially denied. Lastly, they will be available to answer any of your queries or misgivings about the process.

Your attorney’s final function is to represent you at your hearing. If your initial claim was denied, but you successfully appealed the denial, you’ll be offered a court hearing. Moreover, your attorney will help you prepare for the hearing and identify relevant witnesses to either testify or write out witness statements.

Ethical Obligations

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides the rules of conduct and standards of responsibility for representatives. These rules are binding on anyone representing a social security disability claimant.

The disability claims process boils down to the presentation of appropriate evidence of disability and the impartial evaluation of this evidence by the presiding judge. The ethical obligations of the attorney are primarily sourced from the obligations to present appropriate and untampered evidence.

With respect to the claimant, an attorney’s obligations are outlined in SSA’s rules of conduct.First, an attorney must ensure timely communication with their clients, irrespective of any developments. This is to inform their clients about the state of their claim. Second, your attorney is also required to declare any conflict of interest prior to taking you on as a client. Finally, they must maintain confidentiality.

With respect to evidence, the SSA has revised its requirements. Initially, a claimant was required to present ‘material’ evidence of their disability. Since ‘material’ wasn’t defined, claimants and attorneys could selectively present evidence they deemed material. Their new responsibilities have revised this language. Now, claimants are required to submit all evidence that relates to their disability, regardless of their materiality.The SSA has also mandated attorneys to explain the source of any submitted medical or vocational evidence.

Social security disability lawyers are required to do their part in ensuring a transparent and ethical fact-finding process. This requires attorneys to prevent or identify any false or misleading statements in the application or hearing, even if said statements benefit their case. Moreover, this means your attorney cannot twist the facts to present a more compelling application or case.

Ethical Violations


If your representative violates any of the SSA’s rules or regulations, they can face sanctions by the organization. Depending on the severity and conditions of the violation, the SSA can impose different sanctions. However, imposing sanctions is not the SSA’s first response to a violation.If the SSA identifies a possible violation, they will firstissue an inquiry letter to the representative to respond.

In cases of blatant and inexcusable violations, the SSA can bar the representative from practicing before the SSA either permanently or for a stipulated period of time. Formal proceeds are initiated with the issuance of a Notice of Intent to Sanction. Representatives have 30 days to respond to and appeal the SSA’s Notice of Intent to Sanction. If the violation is not deemed serious, such as due to a plausible accident or misunderstanding, the SSA can issue a warning to the representative.

If you want to hire a lawyer that eases the application, appeal, and hearing processes, contact The Law Offices of Lisa Douglas. Offering services in Little Rock, AR, for personal injury and disability claims. Helping you navigate the complexities of the social security system.