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What is an Authorized Representative?

If you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income and you are one of the 70% who have been denied disability benefits, you might have considered hiring a professional to help you get benefits. You may have also heard you can either hire a disability advocate, who is a non-attorney representative, or you can hire a disability lawyer.

What does an Authorized Representative do?

Many claimants ask if they can represent themselves when they apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or if they have to hire a disability lawyer or non-attorney representative. All claimants have the option of representing themselves in the disability process, but whether or not this is a good idea will depend on several factors:

  1. Does your condition automatically meet a listing on the Social Security Administration’s listing of impairments?

  2. Do you have the time to review the process and understand how the SSA makes their disability determination for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income?

  3. Do you have difficulty communicating in English or do you have a limited education?

  4. Do you understand what medical conditions and symptoms are considered disabling?

  5. Are you too sick to manage the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) process?

If you are denied the first time you apply for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance you have 60 days to appeal your denial decision. Most claimants, if they are considering legal assistance, will talk to a either a non-attorney representative or disability lawyer at this point so they can get help with the appeal’s process.

So how do you decide if you should hire a non-attorney representative or a disability lawyer?

How are Disability Lawyers and Non-attorney Representatives paid?

Non-attorney representatives and disability lawyers are both paid on a contingency fee basis. This means that they are only paid if they win your claim. If you win they are paid 25% of the back pay up to a maximum of $6,000. It is unlikely that you will save any money by hiring a non-attorney representative.

Non-Attorney Representative

A non-attorney representative can actually be anyone you want to appoint to help you with your disability claim. The Social Security Administration simply states that they must be of “good character and reputation,” and they must not have been barred or prohibited from providing this service. Most likely you would hire a disability advocate who has helped other claimants win benefits and who has the appropriate professional skills and expertise.

Disability advocates can be extremely good. They may be someone who has worked for the Social Security Administration in the past or who has taken courses and classes to understand the process.

One benefit that is sited from some claimants is that a disability advocate may be able to provide more specialized, focused help and attention than a disability lawyer, who may have too many cases to focus their time and efforts on your case.

Disability Lawyer

A disability lawyer can also be an authorized representative. A disability lawyer is someone who is licensed to practice in the United States and has not been barred by the Social Security Administration from handling Social Security Administration (SSA) disability cases.

Disability lawyers specialize in disability law and understand the Social Security Administration (SSA) processes and disability determination process. The main complaint claimants make about disability lawyers is that they have too many cases or they do not do enough to expedite the disability claim. The first complaint may be valid; the second generally is not.
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