I’ve not filed yet, but I intend to as soon as I receive some pertinent information that SS is going to want. (Yeah, for extra fun, I get to hire a private investigator to get me the necessary info.)
I’ve never heard of a SS disab claimant needing/using the services of a private investigator. Don’t know what else you need beyond medical, employment, and possibly school records.
I’m seeking a lawyer now because I’ve been told by several people who have been through this that the initial claim will be denied, and the next step is to hire a lawyer and dispute it (or appeal, whichever is the correct term).
If you are initially denied, you can request a hearing before an ALJ (administrative law judge). (There is currently a reform of the process underway - in some jurisdictions there may be a second step - reconsideration - before the hearing.) While most claimants do not have a lawyer when they apply, you definitely would benefit from having one for the hearing.
Fortunately, cost isn’t a major obstacle. I don’t care to waste a lot of money on initial consultations, but if I can find a good, even expensive, lawyer, we can afford it.
You may not want to say that as you are pursuing SSI benefits - which have pretty strict income/asset limits for eligibility.
In any event, lawyers’ fees for representing SS claimants are contingent and capped by law. Tho I am not certain, for SSI I believe it is a specific dollar amount - for DIB it can be a portion of past-due benefits. Since SSI fees are set relatively low, my understanding is that some attys will avoid representing SSI only claims.