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Why You Should Hire an Attorney—Rather Than a Disability Advocate—When Applying for SSDI Benefits

If a serious injury or illness will keep you out of work for one year or longer—or is expected to be terminal—you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which provides monthly income payments. However, the application process can be challenging. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires the application to be completed with precision, submitted according to the specified deadlines, and accompanied by relevant supporting documents.

Being approved for SSDI benefits is harder than it sounds. Only about 30 percent of applicants are approved after an initial examination of their application—a fact which can be extremely frustrating for the other 70 percent of people applying for benefits. When you’re injured or ill, unable to work, and desperately need monthly SSDI payments, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. An experienced Social Security disability professional can help you with the careful completion and submission of your application, improving your chances for approval.

Getting Help With Your Application

There are two types of professionals that can assist you with your SSDI application: Social Security disability attorneys and non-lawyer SSDI advocates. Non-lawyer advocates came on the scene when Congress passed the Social Security Protection Act of 2004, which allowed non-attorneys to assist people with their Social Security claims in an attempt to reduce the backlog. Though the law was originally intended to be temporary, it’s been in force ever since.

Planning to apply for SSDI benefits and trying to decide whether you should hire an attorney or a non-lawyer advocate to help you? Though you’ll pay about the same amount regardless of which type of professional you hire (as fees for both are governed by law), there are a number of clear benefits to working with an attorney.

Disability Attorneys and Non-Lawyer Disability Advocates Are Not the Same

Though both Social Security disability attorneys and non-lawyer advocates can help disabled individuals apply for SSDI, the professions—and professionals—are not equivalent. Attorneys and non-lawyer advocates have vastly different qualifications and backgrounds, and perform some similar, but not identical, functions.

Differing Qualifications

One thing is certain: The person you hire to assist you with your SSDI application should be well qualified. Though attorneys and non-lawyer advocates both have qualifications, those qualifications often look quite different. For example, while attorneys are required to have bachelor’s and law degrees, pass the New York State Bar exam, and remain in good standing with the state bar association, non-lawyers just have to have a bachelor’s degree, take a simple test, and pass a criminal background check. Additionally, both attorneys and non-lawyer advocates must satisfy continuing education requirements.

Differing Capabilities

There’s a lot a non-lawyer disability advocate can do to assist you with your claim, like helping you understand what to expect during the SSDI application process, completing application paperwork, and other administrative tasks. However, a skilled Social Security disability attorney can do all this and much, much more.

In addition to ensuring that your application is completed and submitted correctly, an attorney (and their staff) can conduct vital legal research, identify relevant legal arguments, and develop sound strategies.

Other important distinctions:

  • If your application for SSDI benefits is denied in New York, a Social Security disability attorney can help you appeal that decision in court, whereas a disability advocate cannot.
  • Social Security disability attorneys are bound by professional rules of conduct that require them to stay up to date with legal changes and keep you updated on the status of your case, whereas non-lawyer advocates do not.

Handling Your SSDI Case From Application to Appeal (and Everything in Between)

At O’Connor Law, our highly-experienced Social Security disability attorneys in New York can help you apply—and fight—for the SSDI benefits you need and deserve. Put your future in the hands of true legal professionals. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.


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