If you are disabled and wish to apply for Social Security disability benefits, you may have decided to hire someone to help you with the process. While you understand the benefits of choosing an advocate, you may be uncertain what type of advocate to use. If you have decided on a particular type of advocate, you may wonder what questions to ask to make sure you are making a good choice.
An “advocate” is someone who speaks for you. A Social Security disability advocate is someone who speaks for you before the Social Security Administration when you apply for Social Security disability benefits. There are a number of levels of the application process you may have to go through before your disability benefits are awarded, so you should choose an advocate you feel comfortable with and in whom you have confidence.
An advocate can be an attorney, a social worker, a former employee of the Social Security Administration, the employee of a non-profit business that specializes in Social Security disability, or any person who has the experience to represent you in the Social Security claims process. Please be warned: there are people who advertise their services as advocates who are not familiar or are not experienced with the Social Security disability claims process. Before you start interviewing potential advocates, it is a good idea to become as familiar as possible with the process yourself so that you can ask discerning questions of everyone you interview.
Here are some general questions to ask any potential advocate:
- Do you specialize in SSDI or SSI cases? You want to choose someone who does this work full time, not on the side or as part of a more general practice.
- How many SSDI and SSI cases have you personally handled?
- What is your professional background? You are looking for a background that is related to handling disability claims. If you find a representative who has actual experience working for the Social Security Administration in handling disability claims or who has worked for a state of local agency that specializes in filing Social Security disability claims, you can have confidence that they truly understand the system. By the same token, a disability attorney whose practice centers on filing Social Security disability claims is preferable to a disability attorney whose practice centers on insurance claims or workmen’s compensation and who only occasionally files Social Security disability claims.
- Evaluate your advocate’s professionalism and determine whether you think you will be able to communicate with them. An early warning sign is the advocate who is not easy to reach by telephone or who does not return telephone calls promptly. Another warning sign is an advocate who does not welcome questions or who is unable to reply quickly with information you seek. And finally, if your advocate is not pro-active in calling you to keep you abreast of your case, you may not be getting the representation you need.