Individuals who apply for Social Security Disability may seek out professional help with their claim. If so, they may wonder if it’s better to hire a disability lawyer or a disability representative to help them with their claim.
What’s The Difference?
A disability representative helps you with your SSDI or SSI case and deals with the SSA on your behalf. Anyone can act as a rep (unless that person has been disqualified from doing so). But since the SSA changed its rules and no longer requires paid disability representatives to be attorneys, many large companies have sprung up, employing hundreds of nonlawyer reps who work on disability cases for a fee.
Individuals who are not disability lawyers must meet certain requirements including having a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent training and work experience), passing a written exam on the Social Security disability procedures, and completing continuing education courses.
In contrast, disability lawyers are bound by the ethical standards of their state Bar and hold doctorate (juris doctor or doctor of jurisprudence) degrees. Disability lawyers are trained to appear in front of judges. They are educated in and familiar with preparing and compiling evidence. As a lawyer, they are subject to stringent continuing education requirements.
Who Will Be More Successful?
It is important to remember that the best possible representative for your disability claim is someone who listens to you, knows the rules and regulations in and out, and who prepares you adequately for the process.
ANY representative you hire should be reasonably available to you and keep themselves up-to-date on your condition. If your claim goes to a hearing, they should prepare you thoroughly for that hearing.
When comparing approval rates between lawyers, nonlawyer representatives and claimants who have no help, a survey from one of the largest Disability readerships in the United States found that applicants who used nonlawyer representatives were less likely to receive benefits than those who hired lawyers.
Is a Disability Lawyer More Expensive?
It doesn’t matter if claimants work with a disability lawyer or a disability advocate. Their fees will be the same.
Social Security caps fees for lawyers and non-lawyers. Both charge a fee for their work only if they win the case. This is a contingency fee. If the SSA approves your disability claim, the agency will pay your representative a percentage of your past-due benefits. Another name for this is “back pay.”
Your represenative does not receive payment if you don’t receive an award. Under SSA rules, the payment can’t be more than 25% of the award, up to a maximum of $6,000.
In summary, as disability lawyers we recommend that claimants work with a lawyer whenever possible for many reasons. Our years of education and training in addition to our ability to navigate the appeals process all the way to the Federal District level if needed benefits clients in a positive way.
If you’re seeking a disability lawyer or considering filing a claim for Social Security disability, please contact us today.