How to Find Someone to Help You with Social Security - dummies

How to Find Someone to Help You with Social Security

By Jonathan Peterson

Copyright © 2015 AARP

In most situations, you can represent yourself perfectly well in dealing with the Social Security Administration. Your particular issues have probably popped up many times for others, and the system is supposed to know how to deal with them. Doing your homework, asking questions, and listening carefully to what the SSA representative tells you should be more than enough to dispel confusion and clarify your course of action. At least it should.

But sometimes you may end up in a situation in which you need extra assistance, either because of an unusual problem with the SSA, contradictory messages from SSA representatives (yes, this may happen), or personal difficulties such as health problems that make it hard for you to stay on top of matters by yourself. Here are your options.

A friendly advocate

You’re always allowed to bring a helpful companion with you when you meet an SSA representative. It can be a spouse, a friend, or whomever you like. The SSA is even set up to enable your helper to complete your online application in your absence or alongside you. (The helper will have to identify himself or herself.) Your helper can do a lot for you, although you have to sign the application. If you’re not present during an online application process, the SSA will mail the application to you so that you can sign it.

Your helper also can complete the SSA online benefits screening tool on your behalf, to help you find out if you may be eligible for benefits. If your helper accompanies you to a meeting with the SSA, the SSA representative may ask who the helper is, but the official SSA policy is to support your helper’s efforts.

A professional advocate

In certain cases, you may want to appoint a representative to help you navigate an issue with the SSA — typically a lawyer, though not always. Hiring a representative isn’t necessary for routine dealings with the SSA, but it’s usually necessary in disputes over Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims, which are frequently turned down on the first try. If you want to challenge a benefits decision, a lawyer or other advocate who specializes in this area could help.

If you want to appoint an advocate, the SSA expects you to declare this decision in a signed and dated statement. It provides a form that you can download to provide the information. Your advocate can charge you only up to a limit set by the SSA: $6,000 or 25 percent of past‐due benefits, whichever amount is lower.

Disability is a particularly thorny area in which your claim for benefits may not be cut‐and‐dried. A technical grasp of the rules and appeals process often is crucial in getting what you want.