Non-attorney advocate or disability lawyer to win SSDI?It is not unusual for many disability applicants to file their own Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application only to find it summarily denied. The disability applicant is left wondering whether they should simply file again, begin a long and what can be arduous appeals process, or attempt to go back to work.
Unfortunately, the choice you should make depends on several factors including whether or not you can work, why you were denied, and whether you meet the nonmedical requirements for SSDI benefits. Assuming you decide to appeal the denial, however, you have two options: hire a disability lawyer or hire a non-attorney advocate.
What will the disability lawyer and non-attorney advocate do for me?
Regardless of what you decide to hire a non-attorney advocate or disability lawyer, your legal help should be able to provide the following assistance:
- Provide you with a thorough evaluation of your Social Security Disability or SSI claim.
- Obtain information from the Social Security Administration about the amount of compensation you can receive if you win benefits.
- Answer questions about your paperwork and how to complete your disability application.
- Investigate your medical records and obtain additional reports if needed.
- Prepare you for the Social Security hearing.
- Fight for benefits at the Social Security Disability hearing.
Hiring a Non-Attorney Representative or a Disability Lawyer
If you talk to a lawyer about why you should not hire a non-attorney advocate you are likely to hear the following reasons:
- There is a higher probability that the non-attorney advocate could lack competency.
- Non-attorney advocates are not bound by the same ethical rules as disability lawyers.
- The non-attorney advocates cannot be sanctioned by the state bar or sued for misconduct by their client.
- The non-attorney advocate is not regulated by the bar and may not be subject to the same disciplinary measures.
- The non-attorney advocate is more likely to be suspended or disqualified to help with cases than a disability lawyer.
This is not to say, however, that a non-attorney advocate does not have to meet specific requirements to hear disability claims. In fact, there are specific requirements which the SSA has implemented for a non-attorney advocate. A non-attorney advocate must do the following:
- Have a bachelors degree or equivalent qualifications derived from training and work experience
- Pass a criminal background check
- Purchase professional liability insurance
- Pass a written exam administered by the SSA
- Complete continuing education courses
What do the non-attorney advocates say?
Talk to a professional non-attorney advocate and you may hear a completely different story. Disability advocates will tell you that because they only help disability claimants and do not perform other legal services they are much more focused on their clients. They also argue they may not be as busy or take on as many cases as certain lawyers, providing much better service to the claimants they do have.
Finally, they also dispute the statistics which suggest they do not have as high of an approval rating at the hearing level as disability lawyers. Non-attorney advocates claim that because the figures cited by the lawyers include those cases where the claimants are represented by a family member or other untrained individuals, not just non-attorney advocates, these statistics are skewed and do not truly represent the success rate of professional advocates.