It’s technically possible to handle your own Social Security disability claim. However, since a large percentage of claims are initially denied, it’s very helpful to have an experienced professional who can help you navigate the appeals process and put you in the best position possible to be approved for benefits.
A person who fills that role is known as a Social Security disability advocate. They can also be referred to as a representative or just a rep. The most common misconception about disability advocates is that they’re all lawyers.
To the surprise of many, someone can be an advocate without being a lawyer. So even though he may not have a law degree, the Social Security Administration still allows him to represent SSD claimants by answering questions, working with doctors to secure records, appearing at hearings and taking care of all the filings necessary throughout a case.
After learning this information, the first question most people have is “why does the SSA allow someone who’s not a lawyer to represent a disability applicant?” To answer that question, we need to go back to 2004. At that time, there was a huge backlog of disability claims. To help speed up the process, Congress decided to pass the Social Security Protection Act.
The Act states that if someone has gone to college (or has equivalent work experience), passes a written exam and is cleared by a criminal background check, that individual can represent disability claimants and receive 25% of the backpay they successfully secure for any of the people they represent. The Act also specifies that the 25% they receive is capped at $6,000.
Should You Hire an Advocate Who’s Not an Attorney?
Although the decision is ultimately up to you, if you ask a group of professionals who are familiar with the Social Security disability system, most will say that you’re better off hiring a lawyer. Some of the reasons people make this recommendation include:
- Cost: Since both non-lawyers and lawyers are required by the SSA to follow the previously discussed payment structure, the cost of hiring either one is the same.
- Specialized Education: Although the cost for their time and service is the same, the fact that a lawyer has graduated from law school means they’re almost guaranteed to have more specialized knowledge than someone who just fell into the line of work.
- Attorney-Client Privilege: Working with an attorney means that any sensitive information you share with him or her is fully protected by law. This is not the case with a non-attorney.
- Ethical Responsibility: Attorneys are bound by a code of ethics and standards of professional conduct that help ensure that the best interest of their clients are served at all times. Non-attorneys are not held to the same high standards.
- Federal Appeal: If your case ends up in a federal district court, someone who’s not a practicing lawyer won’t be allowed to represent you.
If you’ve decided that you want an advocate for your disability case and want to work with someone who is an attorney, contact Lisa M. Ritacco today to schedule your no obligation consultation.