What’s the Difference Between a Disability Lawyer and a Non-Attorney Advocate?

Post by: Eric Jones | Posted Date: April 1st, 2014 | Categories: Social Security Disability

Want help filing a Social Security disability claim or fighting for the benefits you deserve at a hearing? If you want to hire a representative, you can choose between an Ohio disability lawyer and a non-attorney advocate. Disability attorneys and non-attorney advocates aren’t usually paid upfront – they only receive a payment if they win your case. Both are paid directly by the SSA from your back payment benefits. While both non-attorney advocates and lawyers can assist you in gathering paperwork, help you develop your claim, and represent you at a hearing, this is where the similarities end.

Differences in Education and Training

The primary difference between disability attorneys and non-attorney advocates lies in the education and training they’ve received. In order to become a disability attorney, an individual must obtain the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree (usually takes four years)
  • Juris Doctor degree (usually takes three years)
  • Admission to a state bar (must pass a difficult bar exam)

The requirements for becoming a non-attorney advocate are far less rigorous. In order to qualify to receive direct payment from the SSA for acting as a non-attorney advocate, one must meet the following requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualifications based on training and work experience
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Professional liability insurance
  • Pass a written exam administered by the SSA
  • Complete continuing education courses

Both attorneys and non-attorney advocates are familiar with the Social Security disability application and appeals process. However, there are generally more advantages to hiring an attorney instead of a non-attorney advocate.

Advantages of Hiring an Attorney

Attorneys are bound by rules of professional conduct and ethical obligations. Non-attorney advocates are not held to the same standard. Attorneys also have many years of specialized training, so they may be better equipped to spot legal issues and prepare arguments for why you’re entitled to benefits. An attorney can also appeal your claim at the federal district court level. Furthermore, you can rest assured that the details of your disability case will remain confidential under almost all circumstances due to the attorney-client privilege.

If you feel that your disability attorney did not act in your best interest, you could file a complaint against the attorney through your state’s grievance commission. If a dispute arises with your non-attorney advocate, however, there is no such recourse.

Non-attorney advocates often go by many different titles, such as legal representative, claimant representative, disability advocate, or disability representative. To determine whether the representative you hire is a licensed attorney, ask whether he or she is a member of the bar. Only a lawyer is licensed to practice law and capable of providing sound legal advice.

When it comes to cost, there is no difference between hiring a disability attorney and a non-attorney advocate. A non-attorney advocate can charge the same amount as an attorney. The SSA typically designates no more than 25% of past-due benefits or $6000 (whichever is less) to disability attorneys and non-attorney advocates. Therefore, it costs virtually the same whether you hire an attorney or non-attorney advocate. The difference is that when you work with an attorney, you will feel confident knowing that your representative meets stringent educational, professional, and ethical standards.

Contact a Social Security Disability Attorney in Columbus, Ohio

If you or a loved one requires assistance with a Social Security disability claim, get in touch with Jones Law Group in Columbus, Ohio. Our staff of dedicated legal professionals has extensive experience handling and winning Social Security disability cases. Call (614) 545-9998 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our Ohio Social Security disability lawyers.

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