Navigating a social security disability claim can be complicated. A disability advocate can help you through the application, hearing, and appeals process. Unfortunately, most disability claims are denied. But if you have an advocate, the chances of having your claim approved increase substantially.

What Is the Difference Between a Disability Advocate and a Social Security Disability Attorney?

A disability advocate is someone who represents you in your disability claim. Traditionally, disability advocates were attorneys. However, back in 2004, there was a huge backlog of social security disability cases. So in the Social Security Protection Act of 2004, Congress changed the rules to allow non-attorneys to provide advocacy services and represent people in social security disability claims.

Advocates

Non-attorney advocates must have the following qualifications:

  • College degree or equivalent training or work experience,
  • Pass a criminal background check,
  • Pass the Social Security Administration’s certification exam, and
  • Complete continuing education requirements.

Advocates receive special training to handle social security disability claims.

Attorneys

The educational requirements for attorney advocates are greater than for non-lawyer advocates. Attorney advocates must:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree,
  • Have a law degree,
  • Pass a state bar exam, and
  • Complete continuing education requirements.

Attorney advocates generally have more legal expertise than non-attorney advocates. However, their knowledge and experience may not be as specialized.

What Special Skills Does an Advocate Have?

Advocate training and certification focuses specifically on laws relating to social security disability. Advocates must pass an exam to demonstrate their understanding of things like:

  • Laws and rules regarding disability benefits,
  • Professional responsibility,
  • Preparing for hearings,
  • Cross-examining experts,
  • Writing briefs,
  • The process for appeals,
  • Basic anatomy/physiology,
  • How to review medical records, and
  • Rules of evidence.

Attorneys learn about some of these things in law school, but they are not required to pass the Social Security Disability Examination.

How Much Does an Advocate Cost?

The Social Security Administration limits the amount of fees that an advocate can charge for representing someone in a disability claim. Advocates can’t charge you anything unless your claim succeeds. The fee is limited to 25% of back pay you are awarded, but no more than $6,000.

Do I Need Advocacy Services for My Disability Case?

You do not have to be represented to file a disability claim. Often, people file the initial application on their own. However, disability applicants represented by a social security disability advocate are almost twice as likely to have their application approved. 

An advocate can help you file a strong application with all the necessary medical documentation. If your initial application has been denied, an advocate can help you with your appeal. Your advocate will gather additional evidence, prepare you for your hearing, and question experts.

In November 2019, the average SSDI benefit awarded was $1,390.60 per month. The modest fee you will pay to your disability lawyer to secure these benefits will be money well spent.

Getting Started with a Disability Claim

What can a disability advocate do for you? To summarize, your attorney advocate can help you through the application process, gather evidence, represent you at your hearing, and help you with appeals. GAR Disability Advocates will do all the hard work for you and help you get the disability benefits you deserve. Call us 201-308-9520 or message us online for a free case evaluation.