You have probably seen the ads for people who call themselves a disability advocate who offer to represent disability claimants for a less fee than an attorney would. You may be wondering if you should hire a non-attorney disability advocate so you end up spending less money.
To begin with, a disability advocate who’s an attorney has gone to college, graduated from three or four years of law school, and passed the state’s bar exam to be admitted to the state’s bar association of attorneys. In law school, the advocate learned how to spot legal issues and develop legal theories, garner the law from reading prior cases, cross-examine witnesses, and write legal briefs, all of which are required to properly represent a client in front of Social Security.
In contrast, there are no requirements for acting as a non-lawyer disability advocate. However, to have their fee paid directly by Social Security out of their client’s back pay, a non-attorney advocate must either have gone to college or have training and work experience that’s considered equivalent, pass a written exam given by Social Security on Social Security procedures, and pass a criminal background check. Non-lawyer advocates do not need to go to law school or pass a bar exam.
Moreover, attorneys are bound by the “attorney-client privilege,” which prevents them from revealing a client’s sensitive and potentially embarrassing personal information. They are also bound by professional conduct rules requiring them to competently represent their clients, charge only reasonable out-of-pocket costs, return phone calls within a reasonable time period (or otherwise respond to your requests for information), and keep you up to date on the status of your claim. If you feel your attorney is violating these rules, you can file a grievance with their state bar. There are no parallel or similar rules or requirements for non-lawyer advocates.
Finally, a non-attorney advocate can’t handle your appeal after the
Appeals Council step; only a disability lawyer can represent you in federal district court.
How our experienced disability attorneys can help
If you need help applying for benefits or appealing a denial of benefits with the SSA, you should consider hiring a disability benefits lawyer or advocate. A lawyer or advocate can help you gather necessary evidence, fill out your application, and make sure that you maximize your chance of receiving the disability benefits you need.
At Kalfus & Nachman PC, we've helped hundreds of people get the disability help they are entitled to. The process of applying for early Social Security Disability benefits can be long and frustrating. Without legal help, it can take up to 2 ½ years to get benefits. Hiring Kalfus & Nachman PC to help you receive these benefits can significantly lessen this waiting period. We have solid experience and understand complicated federal regulations governing Social Security Disability claims. We'll help you get through the system to get the benefits you need. Call us today!