A disability advocate is a kind of professional representative who helps people who file to receive Social Security disability benefits.  The advocate is not an attorney but has legal expertise without a law degree.  A disability advocate, like Kim Engler of the Disability Advocates Group, still has to undergo certification and training, to ensure that they are qualified to address the concerns of the claimant.

Qualifications of an Advocate 

An advocate either needs to have a college degree or work experience and training that is the equivalent of a collection education. The person must also undergo a criminal background check and pass a certification exam on the Social Security disability rules and regulations. For professional certification to be maintained, an advocate is required to satisfy the continuing education requirements of the Social Security Administration which has been designed to make sure the advocate stays current on all of the changes to the disability programs, processes, regulations, and rules.

Qualifications of an Attorney

The training and education of a disability attorney are more rigorous compared to the advocates, although some may not no the difference between SSI and SSDI.  The individuals must have a bachelor’s degree along with law degree and pass the state bar exam and remain in good standing with their state’s bar association. Continuing education requirements must also be completed by a disability lawyer, not only in subjects that relate to Social Security regulations and rules but in other legal areas also that might relate to your disability claim. 

Attorney vs. Advocate Capabilities

An advocate is able to assist you with many of the aspects that are involved in a disability claim, including understanding SSA processes, and getting prepared for and making an appearance at your appeal hearing.  Less experienced advocates may not be as proficient as a lawyer are about cross-examining witnesses, conducting legal research, or identifying legal documents, although some advocates have years of courtroom experience and maybe even more capable when it comes to defending your claim than a lawyer is.

Attorney and Advocate Fees

Some non-profit organizations do offer free disability assistance.  However, a majority of advocates do charge a fee for their services, similar to how lawyers do. The SSA processes the fees and they are directly paid to your attorney or advocate.  Payment is only received after the SSA has verified that the fees that are charged are accurate and fair and that you and the representative have a legal, binding agreement.

Although advocates and attorneys differ in terms of the types of services that they provide and their qualifications, they basically charge the same. That is due to the fact that limits have been established by the SSA on what an attorney or advocate can charge: a maximum of 25 percent of any back benefits that you receive when your claim gets approved, and up to a $6,000 maximum.

Since the fees you pay for representation tend to be the same, and experience is frequently variable whether you work with an advocate or an attorney. Usually, you will have a higher chance to qualify no matter who you end up working with.  Contacting someone like the people at Disability Advocates Group in Raleigh NC, who can assist you with your claim is the most important step that you can take.