Jason knew he should look at the big picture when working on his disability claim. But understanding what would happen as his case proceeded was a mystery to him. It made the ‘big picture’ hard to see. If you have never had a disability claim before, it can be difficult to know the difference between a California disability attorney and a disability advocate – and why one choice is better than the other.
#1. Disability Advocates Are Not Attorneys
They are called ‘advocates’ for a reason. Disability advocates are not attorneys. This means that there are serious limitations to what they can do for you. As we proceed through this article, you will learn more about the significant disparities between a California disability attorney and a disability advocate.
#2. Attorneys Have More Training than Non-Attorney Advocates.
Disability advocates indeed have to get some training. But lawyers have more extensive training. In fact, a California disability attorney typically has gone through college, three years of law school, and participated in training that focuses on handling disability cases.
#3. Attorneys Are Bound by Rules of Professional Conduct.
One significant distinction between a California disability attorney and a disability advocate relates to accountability. You want someone working on your case who can be held accountable for their actions.
The State Bar of California regulates attorneys in several ways. The Rules of Professional Conduct tell attorneys what is expected of them. The State Bar can penalize California disability attorneys who break these rules. Disability advocates are not held to the same standards.
#4. Disability Advocates Don’t Have Attorney-Client Privilege.
When you discuss your case with a lawyer, you can be assured that your words will be held in the strictest confidence. That’s because of a principle called ‘attorney-client privilege.’ Your attorney is not allowed to tell people what you have said to him or her. Courts, even criminal courts, respect this privilege.
But disability advocates are not attorneys. What you tell a disability advocate is not covered by the attorney-client privilege.
#5. Attorneys Are Better Able to Question Witnesses.
Your disability claim could go before a mediator, an administrative law judge, or a federal district court judge. If so, questioning witnesses could be a real challenge. It’s especially important to examine expert witnesses thoroughly.
This type of questioning is part of a California disability attorney’s skill set. You stand a better chance of getting all pertinent information from witnesses when a lawyer is asking the questions.
#6. Disability Advocates Cannot File an Appeal in Federal District Court.
You may be filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Social Security denies many first-time claims, which sends you into the four stages of appeal:
- Requesting a Reconsideration
- Asking an Administrative Law Judge to hear your case
- Asking for an Appeals Council review
- Filing a lawsuit in a federal district court
A disability advocate might be able to handle an initial claim and asking for a reconsideration. But if your appeal progresses further – and it likely will – then you need the assistance of a California disability attorney. Because disability advocates are not attorneys, they would not be entitled to represent you if you reach the district court level of appeal.
Choosing Between a California Disability Attorney and a Disability Advocate
Why not start your disability claim off on the right foot? Since you do not know where your claim is headed, it makes sense to start out with a lawyer, not an advocate.
Social Security Administration rules and regulations are not easy to understand. It can help to have someone on your side. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Martin Taller have more than 50 years’ experience helping clients like you. For a free consultation, call us at 714-385-8100. Though our office is located in Anaheim, we assist clients throughout Southern California.