Disability Rights Advocate Or Attorney: Which One Do You Need?

disability rights attorney disabled client advocate

When people are dealing with an issue regarding their disability rights, they may be wondering where to turn. Should they hire a disability rights advocate or an attorney? The answer to this question depends on the circumstances of your situation. In some cases, there is not a whole lot of difference between hiring one of the other, while in other situations, you will want to choose one or the other. 

Differences Between A Disability Rights Advocate And An Attorney 

Most everyone knows what a lawyer is. Someone who went to school and got a bachelor's degree, a graduate degree, attended law school and passed the state bar exam. A disability lawyer must complete continuing education requirements pertaining to a wide variety of disability laws. 

A disability advocate, on the other hand, typically has far less education. An advocate likely has a college degree but may instead have training and work experience that is equal to what they would receive from a college education. There are two main types of disability rights advocates: social and legal. 

Social Disability Rights Advocates 

Social disability rights advocates work to improve the lives of people with disabilities as a whole by attempting to change public policy through a wide range of approaches. The qualifications for a social advocate vary greatly, as do their functions in fighting for disability rights. 

Legal Disability Rights Advocates 

Legal disability rights advocates, on the other hand, fight for the rights of a specific client or clients. A legal disability advocate must pass a criminal background check and a certification exam in order to represent their clients in pursuing Social Security disability benefits. Like a lawyer who represents their clients in a Social Security benefits case, an advocate must also meet continuing education requirements. 

This focus on continued education is to make sure that your advocate remains current on disability law as changes to laws, processes, and programs are frequently changing. 

Within these two primary types of disability advocates, you also have several subcategories of disability advocates that can help in a wide variety of pursuits. Some of the different advocates out there are: 

● Citizen advocate 
● Group advocate 
● Individual advocate 
● Self-advocate 
● Systemic advocate 

Filing For Social Security Disability Benefits 

When filing for Social Security disability benefits it is more important to look at the individual who will be representing you and their particular experience, rather than whether they are a lawyer or a legal disability rights advocate. 

An advocate with minimal experience likely won't be quite as capable as a lawyer in handling your case. However, an advocate with years of experience may be more qualified as they focus exclusively on these types of cases, while a lawyer may take on a wide range of cases and not have as much specific knowledge when it comes to Social Security disability benefits. 

Unless you are being represented by a non-profit organization, you likely won't find much difference in the prices charged by a lawyer or disability advocate for representing you in a Social Security disability benefits case. 

This similarity in pricing is due to the fact that the Social Security Administration has a cap on how much an attorney or advocate can charge for representation. Anyone representing you in these cases is not allowed to charge you more than 25 percent of any back benefits received with a maximum payment of $6,000. 

Other Types Of Legal Actions 

Outside of Social Security disability benefits cases, those seeking legal assistance for a disability rights issue are much more likely to want to hire the services of a lawyer than a disability advocate. A disability rights advocate can be a helpful advisor in many cases. However, they are unlikely to have the full range of legal expertise needed to fully represent you in many situations. 

Cerebral palsy cases require specialized lawyers as there are a lot of complex issues that disability advocates simply don't have the proper training needed in order to represent clients. While disability rights advocates are typically quite well versed when it comes to Social Security cases, most just don't have the same level of legal expertise when it comes to larger scope legal matters as most lawyers do.

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