Q: Do I get to choose anyone I want to represent me for my Pennsylvania Social Security disability claim?
Usually yes, but there are some exceptions.
You can select a representative to conduct business with the Social Security Administration (SSA) on your behalf. A representative can be helpful if you have a mental or physical condition that limits your ability to deal with the case on your own. Your chosen representative will be able to act in your place in a number of ways. For example, he can:
- Obtain information from your Social Security records that would otherwise be private
- Obtain medical information from your health care providers that would otherwise be private
- Go with you to attend meetings with Social Security caseworkers
- Request a hearing or appeal for a decision not in your favor
- Help you and your witnesses prepare for hearings
- Question witnesses at hearings
- Accept payments on your behalf in certain circumstances
Selecting a representative is done on an individual basis: you choose a person, not an organization. Even if your chosen representative is a member of a law firm, you can’t designate the law firm as your representative, but you can choose one or more Social Security Disability attorneys from that firm to represent you.
As soon as you select an official representative, you must notify the SSA; there is an official form for appointing a representative that can be filed online or at your nearest Social Security office. The caseworkers at Social Security will examine the credentials of the person you have chosen. Of course, there must be no law forbidding the person you have chosen from acting as a representative. Other regulations that apply for your choice depend on the person you have selected:
- If you chose a lawyer as your representative, he must be an attorney in good standing who has the right to practice law in any U.S. state, territory, or possession, or before any federal court; and he must not be disqualified or suspended from acting as a Social Security representative.
- If you chose someone who is not an attorney, that person must be generally known to have a good character and reputation; must be able to give you valuable help to you in connection with your claim; and must not be disqualified or suspended from acting as a Social Security representative.
- If your chosen representative does not meet these regulations, the Social Security Administration will refuse to accept your representative. You will need to choose a new one.
Why Would my Chosen Representative be Disqualified or Suspended?
Mostly, it has to do with money. The Social Security Administration has fairly strict limits on what a representative may charge someone for his services. If the person you want as your representative overcharged a client in the past, collected a fee without getting prior SSA approval, or didn’t follow any other of the fee regulations, the Social Security Administration may disqualify him from representing other people. This ban may last a few years, or it may be a lifetime disqualification.
So the Only Barrier is SSA Regulations, Right?
No, not quite. You also have to make sure the person you have chosen agrees to represent you.
Consider our law firm, Schmidt Kramer. We take pride that our Social Security attorneys are very capable, highly organized, and efficient: but sometimes they reach the limit of cases they can handle at any one time. We cannot help everyone who asks for our assistance, even though we try to help as many people as possible. Sometimes, taking on even one more case would mean neglecting our obligations to other clients—and that is something we cannot ethically allow.
In addition, occasionally someone will ask for help in obtaining Social Security disability benefits, and our best professional judgment may be that she doesn’t have a valid claim under Social Security rules. Perhaps we think that her work history isn’t long enough, or recent enough; perhaps her condition isn’t really “disabling” (as the SSA defines the term) or isn’t likely to last a year or more. If we don’t think the claim is valid, we will probably decline to accept the case.
If you come to us and we are unable to take your Social Security disability case for whatever reason, we will try our best to give you a referral to another reputable law firm that may be able to take your case.
Still looking for help? Do you need additional questions answered? Continue to browse this website, or contact our Pennsylvania SSDI attorneys by calling 717-888-8888 locally or 888-476-0807 toll-free. We always offer new clients a free, confidential case review; call us today to schedule your consultation.