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Become a Social Security Disability Advocate: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Social Security disability advocates assist claimants move a claim through the process toward approval. They help claimants file appeals when the Social Security Administration denies a claim and can provide representation during an appeals hearing.

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Should I Become a Social Security Disability Advocate?

Filing a disability claim for Social Security benefits may be a complicated or even an overwhelming task. Even if the person claiming benefits has satisfied the requirements of the law and has a strong case, there are pitfalls. Many claims are denied when first filed and must be resubmitted or appealed.

A successful claim may need the support of experts in medicine, law, psychology and social work. This task is often beyond the abilities of injured, disabled or sick workers. A Social Security Advocate is skilled in assembling that evidence, following applicable rules, submitting the application with supporting material and then representing the client throughout the process.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level College degree required in many cases. Some positions require law degree.
Degree Field Law, social work or medically related degrees.
Licensure and Certification Law degree required for some jobs, other positions have no specific license or certification requirements. Representative must not be disqualified, suspended or legally prevented from acting as a representative or dealing with the Social Security Administration.
Key Skills Organizing supporting material or witnesses, critical thinking, presenting arguments to application authorities, legal and case-law knowledge.
Salary $115,820 for lawyers in general. No specific figure for Social Security Disability attorneys or advocates.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (May, 2015)

Step 1: Obtain Education and Training

Students pursuing a career as a disability advocate may seek an education in law or social work to qualify as an advocate. Training or education in the medical field can also prepare the student to work with disabled clients. Some Social Security disability advocates are lawyers, but it is not always a requirement. Advocates who are lawyers must be legally able to practice in the United States.

The Social Security Administration (www.ssa.gov) requires non-attorney representatives for disability claimants be of good character and capable of providing valuable advice to clients. In addition, the representative must not be disqualified, suspended or legally prevented from acting as a representative or dealing with the Social Security Administration.

Step 2: Gain Experience Working in a Case Management Position

Work experience in worker's compensation, social services, healthcare and case management can provide aspiring advocates with the skills needed to work with Social Security claimants. Employers seeking attorney advocates may require litigation experience to assist claimants in appeals hearings.

Step 3: Apply for a Position with a Firm

Social Security disability advocates may apply to an advocacy or law firm for employment. Social Security representatives may also work as an independent advocate providing services to clients.

Step 4: Continuing Education for Career Advancement

A common way to advance a career within the field of social work is to obtain advanced degrees, certificates, or credentials. Bachelor's, master's and even law degrees may be necessary to achieve desired career goals.

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