Definition of Disability Advocate
Claimants applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may hire a trained professional to help them with the disability process. Trained professionals include disability lawyers and disability advocates.
Disability advocates are not attorneys, which means they do not have a juris doctorate (J.D.) degree (usually a three-year program of legal studies), and they have not passed the bar exam. They will, however, have a bachelor's degree or "equivalent qualifications derived from training and work experience," and they will have passed a written exam administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
There are pros and cons for hiring a disability advocate instead of a disability lawyer. Disability advocates may handle fewer cases and have more direct contact with their claimants, although this varies by lawyer. They also can perform the same services as a disability lawyer (gathering medical records, preparing the appeal and arguing a case before the Administrative Law Judge). But some sources claim disability lawyers have a higher approval rating than some disability advocates, although this is disputed by some advocates. Disability lawyers also must abide by specific professional conduct rules.
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