Why do I need an experienced, local attorney?
You don’t. You can represent yourself. You can have a friend, family member, or inexperienced attorney represent you. There are non-attorney representatives who are, more or less, skilled. There are many out of state law firms or groups who will offer to represent you. You may not meet these out of state representatives in person before the day of your hearing, often more than 18 months after you applied.
Negotiating a disability case is a long, complex process. Much of it must now be done using the computer. The first two decisions on a claim are often incorrect. Many of these need to be appealed to the level of a hearing with a Social Security judge. Many people whose claims were denied at the first two levels are found disabled at the hearing level by a Social Security judge. This tells you that many of these initial and reconsideration decisions were wrong.
The hearing itself is often one hour or less. You may be nervous. There is a lot riding on the outcome. If your attorney is realistic, she/he too will be nervous, because they are paid only if you win. A nervous attorney who is experienced, and who specializes in this type of law, is also most likely alert to the potential pitfalls and this will not be their “first rodeo”. They will be better able to cross-examine the government’s witness and help you present your testimony.