You may be one of thousands of people who were denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Now you need help to win your claim. In your search for qualified help, you have probably run across all kinds of websites or TV commercials advertising Social Security “advocates” “experts” or “representatives.”
What you may not know is that the Social Security Administration does not require a representative to be an attorney to represent a claimant before the SSA. Does this mean that attorney and non-attorney representation is equal?
In truth, there is a tremendous difference in what an SSDI attorney and a non-attorney advocate can do for you. Most people who have been denied Social Security Disability benefits are simply unaware of their rights. But this issue is vital to the disabled worker.
What is the difference between a non-lawyer advocate and a SSDI Attorney?
Firms have cropped up across the country who claim to be able to assist you in securing SSDI benefits. Many of these firms are operated by non-attorney advocates who are limited in their capabilities to assist you beyond the claim forms and documentation.
Basically, non-lawyer advocates or representatives are people who are familiar with the SSD application and appeals process. They can help you prepare an application for SSDI or help you appeal a denied disability claim before an Administrative Law Judge. They are not attorneys and cannot appeal one’s case to Federal Court.
When so much is at stake, the representation you choose can be critical. Now is the time to start asking questions. For instance, can a non-lawyer advocate or representative
- represent you in hearings?
- effectively cross-examine medical and vocational experts hired by the government?
- interpret the law?
What every Social Security Disability claimant should know:
Would You Pay the Exact Same Fee for Incomplete Service?
With non-attorney SSDI advocates you’ll avoid steep lawyer’s fees and save money, right? Wrong! The fees set by the SSA are the same for both attorneys and non-attorneys.
Whether you hire a lawyer or a non-lawyer representative, you will pay them 25% of your back benefits up to a $6000 cap. Also, both are required to work on “contingency,” meaning they get paid only if you win your case.
Why Do I Need Attorney-Client Privilege with an SSDI Claim?
Many disabled claimants apply for group or individual long term disability (LTD) benefits in addition to their Social Security Disability. Here is the problem: Some Social Security disability advocates specialize in getting their referrals from LTD insurance carriers.
LTD carriers team up with non-lawyer advocates because since they are not attorneys, there is no attorney-client privilege and the advocate can tell everything they know about your case to the LTD carrier. In other words the Social Security advocate’s loyalty is often to the LTD insurance company, not the SSD claimant.
What most people do not realize is that their LTD insurance plan not only gives the insurance company the right to offset (subtract) your Social Security benefits from what the insurance company owes you now, but the insurance company also wants to recover your past benefits for their own use.
So be aware of Social Security Disability “firms” recommended by your insurance company. Their purpose is to win your case and collect your back due benefits to reimburse your insurance company.
This is an obvious conflict of interest. A Board Certified Social Security Disability attorney is your loyal advocate who is going to watch out for you and protect your best interests 100% of the time.
Why is Representation in Federal Court so Important?
If your claim is denied during the administrative appeal, your last resort is appealing to the federal courts. Non-attorney Social Security advocates or representatives cannot appeal denied SSDI claims to federal court. Their ability ends with answering questions concerning Administration policies and procedures.
Only an attorney can provide advice on the law. Moreover, many general practice attorneys who do not specialize in Social Security Disability law are unwilling to appeal claims in federal court because it requires particular expertise, time and resources.
Marc Whitehead & Associates regularly appeal Social Security Disability cases at every level including federal court.
Why Is Attorney Accountability So Important?
Attorneys are bound by the ethical rules of the legal profession and are subject to the discipline of the courts and bar authorities. The rules of professional conduct obligate lawyers to zealously and competently represent their clients, charge only reasonable out-of-pocket costs, and maintain good communication with the client to keep them informed on the status of claim. A lawyer is never allowed to represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest.
If your case has been mishandled or your lawyer has violated any rules of professional conduct, you can file a grievance with their state bar. Non-attorneys are not members of, nor regulated by, state bars and are not subject to the same disciplinary measures as attorneys.
Why Is “Analyzing the Law and Fact” of a Social Security Disability Case So Important?
If you have received an unfavorable decision after a disability hearing, it is time to analyze and sort through the ALJ’s decision for legal and factual errors. The next step is to argue the case before the Appeals Council.
Thousands of cases are won or lost at this step. If your disability claim is contested before the SSA, the court system places heavy reliance on you and your attorney (or non-attorney advocate) to develop the facts of the case, to research the law, and to frame issues for courts to decide.
The legal training of lawyers prepares them for these tasks.
Do You Want a Non-Attorney – or a Board Certified Social Security Disability Attorney – Fighting for You?
Attorney Marc Whitehead is Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law by the National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy.
When you are up against the red tape and bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration, you need an attorney behind you with the experience, skills, and accreditations who can clearly deal with the system and win the benefits you deserve.
Call us today for a free case evaluation with Social Security Disability attorney Marc Whitehead. Wherever you live, whatever your disability, we will fight with all our might to win the Social Security Disability benefits you deserve.
We have a great many resources for you on this website. Please view our Free Resources, as well as read our articles for answers to many Social Security Disability questions.
Ask Us About Your Claim Today
If you were denied long term disability benefits, Social Security Disability or Veterans’ Disability Compensation, we are prepared to help you now. 800-562-9830.