The Social Security Protection Act of 2004 allowed the Social Security Administration (SSA) to pay non-attorney advocates who help people with Social Security claims, including Social Security disability claims. At the time the law was enacted, officials believed that this change would reduce the backlog of Social Security disability claims and make it easier for disabled applicants to get help. The rule was supposed to be temporary, but as of October 2016 non-attorney advocates were still allowed by the SSA.
Unfortunately, some large law firms across the country are allegedly taking advantage of this rule and having non-lawyers handle Social Security disability claims.
If You Are Disabled, You Have a Choice to Make
If you are disabled and you are applying for Social Security disability benefits, you will have to decide whether you are going to apply:
- On your own
- With the help of a Social Security disability advocate
- With the help of a Social Security disability attorney
It is important to think carefully about these choices before you file for Social Security disability benefits.
Below are some things you might want to consider before you get started:
- If you file on your own, it is important to know that the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires applications for disability benefits to be completed precisely. If any information is missing or incorrect, your application for benefits may be denied.
- If you file with the help of a Social Security disability advocate, that person must meet the minimum qualifications set forth by the SSA. Generally, an advocate must have a bachelor’s degree, pass a criminal background check, pass a test, and complete continuing education classes. An advocate may help you apply for benefits, but an advocate may not represent you in court if you need to appeal.
- If you file with the help of a Social Security disability lawyer, you are hiring someone who has completed law school and been admitted to the Texas bar. Your lawyer is held to the strict ethical standards of the legal profession and can represent you at every stage of the application process—from the initial application through an appeal to federal district court, if necessary. The fees that you pay a lawyer are limited and may not be as high as you think.
Generally, it won’t cost you any more to hire an attorney than it will to hire a non-attorney advocate, because the fees for both types of representatives are limited by the Social Security Administration.
Filing for Social Security disability is important, and thus how you do it is also important. If you would like more free information about the Social Security disability application process, please read our book Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.