If you or a loved one is applying for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you have probably heard the term disability attorney. A disability attorney is a lawyer who specializes in helping those who are unable to work get access to the disability benefits that they need.
However, a disability advocate can also assist with the application process. While both a disability attorney and a disability advocate provide similar services, they are differences.
What Is A Disability Advocate?
A disability advocate is not a licensed attorney. An advocate has legal training or expertise but doesn’t have a law degree like an attorney.
A representative that helps those seeking Social Security Disability benefit, a disability advocate has undergone extensive training and has earned certification to ensure that he or she is able to address the concerns and challenges faced by a disability claimant.
To be a disability advocate, the individual must have either a college degree or proper legal training or have work experience that is equal to a college education. The individual must pass a criminal background check and must pass an examination for certification on the regulations and disability rules of the Social Security program.
There are continuing education requirements in place by the SSA to ensure that the disability advocate is familiar with current changes to programs, rules, processes, and regulations concerning the disability programs.
What Is A Disability Attorney?
A disability attorney has undergone more extensive training and has a more intense educational background than that of an advocate. The attorney must have a bachelor’s degree then have attended law school and earned a law degree.
He or she must pass the state bar exam and the disability lawyer must stay in good standing with the state bar association. Disability attorneys must complete continuing education requirements, but not only subjects pertaining to Social Security’s regulations and procedures, but also to other areas of the law that could involve disability claims.
Attorneys may be more skilled at discovering legal arguments, performing legal research and performing cross-exams on witnesses.
Breaking Down the Differences
While some non-profit agencies offer disability help without any charge, most disability advocates do charge a fee for services as do disability attorneys. The SSA will process the fees and pay them directly to the attorney or advocate after the claim has been won.
The SSA will verify that the fee requested and agreed to is fair and accurate and that there was a binding legal agreement between the claimant and representative.
While the educational levels and training varies for advocates and lawyers, and their services do vary as well, they usually charge the same for their services. The SSA has set limits on what an attorney or advocate can charge a disability claimant.
That is 25 percent of any backpay that you receive when you are approved for disability with a maximum payout of $6,000. Regardless of whether you work with an attorney or advocate, your likelihood of being approved for disability benefits increases greatly with help.