It seems more get denied the first time around then get approved that's for sure.
As for an Attorney its up to you but until you get the second denial there really isnt much they can do to change the outcome. If you get denied again and if your state is one that requires 2 denials to ask for a hearing then you may want to obtain an Attorney but like already said make sure you shop around and word of mouth here is as good as anyway to find one with a winning track record.
There are several ways to expedite the process at certain points in the process but they dont do much good if you attempt to use them before the timing is right.
Make sure above all that you get your appeal in on time and make sure you keep a copy of exactly the thing you sent in as it has been known to get lost! Even make a copy of the envelope you mail it back in and take it to the post office and have them give you a receipt dated that it was postmarked as this is important. If it doesnt get to them they can and do make you start the entire process over from begining. It has to be postmarked by the date they give and if it isnt they will deny you.
Keep each and every piece of correspondance they send you in a file and make sure you get a copy of every Doctors notes from every Doctor you see from now until the end of this thing and that means therapists of all kinds as well even if it is physical. Send a copy of those with each packet of questions they send you as what the Docs offices send them you will find can be far less then the copy of medical records they give you as they usually just answer the questionare and dont make copies of your notes or your chart.
Letters from those that know you well and know your situation well and especially those that help you out when you need help all can help make or break a decision.Be brutally honest when they ask a question but simply and not overdone. If you have any kind of repoire with your past employer and you missed alot of work due to pain and those issues ask someone there to also write a letter stating what they observed and how much you missed or went home early or came in late.
Leave nothing out and every record is important. They usually always state due to your education and age we feel that you can handle some type of employment and this is where you research what jobs they actually think you can do and how many hours can you do it. Use to be if you could not do your regular job or the job you were trained to do was enough to grant you unable to work but that isnt so anymore as they feel if you can do any substantial work for any amount of time then you are not disabled totally and this is the required decision needed.
The majority of it all is how you answer the questions and an example would be if they asked if you cook for yourself and you say no never and they already know you live totally alone and have no support system,how do you eat? If you can get to the door,afford take out and delivary then you can most likely throw a dinner in the microwave so saying you never cook is the wrong answer. You would want to stress you use to cook large meals and now you eat mostly efficient meals that can be reheated in shorts amounts of time or that someone like your sister prepares for you and freezes and you reheat and eat.
Another example is do you walk to the mailbox and how far is it? Do you walk around your yard? If you go out to the mailbox you might not want to say no never but rather I have to go slow and every 2 days rather then daily and I have to stick to the sidewalks as walking on grass or uneven ground is too difficult or makes me fear falling.
Who does your laundry? You cant say you never do it so you say someone gets it out and I sit on the couch and fold it and then someone puts it away for me. Or I have to use a rolling hamper and push it to the couch to fold when I have a good moment. I lived in a townhome where the laundry room and bathroom were on the top level and I couldnt do the stairs so I had to move,not something you would think to tell them but a very positive answer to their question.
Just make sure you take your time and give each question alot of thought before answering and again be brutally honest but believable all the same.
When and if you get to the hearing stage you can contact your state reps and ask them to file a dire need request for you and this helps move you along in the hearing process which can take a year in some states. If your money is gone and your in dire straights and to the point of homelessness then you can get a speedier hearing date. I have not seen a Rep that doesnt have a email request form for just this and then you will be assigned one of their aides that specialize in this and asked to sign a release form so they can gain access to your info that SSD has on you. I went from a date of unknown origion after doing this to one 6 weeks ahead. So it does work to your advantage.
Good luck and dont give up as they say that is what they are hoping you will do.