Published on: October 27, 2016
If you’re looking for help filing for disability in Florida, you might be wondering how you can find the right person to be your advocate.
The answer begins with knowing:
What to Look for in a Disability Advocate
Your disability advocate should be someone who has the experience, dedication, and resources to help you deal with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
This doesn’t mean that you have to go to some big law firm—it just means that your advocate needs to have experience with the SSA’s process for evaluating disability benefits claims. A non-attorney representative can help you gather your medical files and other supporting documents so that you can take your case to the SSA.
One way to know if an advocate has the experience and determination to help you with your application is to ask them for an assessment of your disability case.
Look for Someone Who Will Give You an Honest Assessment of Your Case
Aside from experience & resources, your disability advocate should be able to provide you with a fair assessment of your chances of successfully applying for disability in Florida under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) programs.
Be sure to ask the advocate to explain why he/she feels one way or another about your case. For example, if there isn’t enough medical evidence present to prove disability, the advocate should tell you. Such preliminary assessments can help you better prepare for your case by letting you know more about what you need to do.
Also, a preliminary assessment helps you sort out the true disability experts from those who would just waste your time. After all, if your “advocate” can’t be bothered to review your case and give you an assessment, how will they help you when the time comes to deal with the pressure of an SSA determination?
Check How the Advocate Receives Compensation for Their Services
By law, Social Security disability advocates are only allowed to collect a certain amount of money as payment for their services—and only if the application for benefits is successful.
Any advocate demanding an up-front payment is not a true advocate.
As noted on the SSA’s page about Fee Agreements, there are statutory conditions must be met for an advocate or other representative to get approval from the SSA to charge and collect a fee for services rendered for Social Security benefits.
According to the SSA, “the fee specified in the agreement does not exceed the lesser of 25 percent of the past-due benefits or… $6000 if the fee agreement is approved on or after June 22, 2009.” Note that the SSA specifically states that the fee has to be the lesser of 25% past-due benefits or that $6,000 maximum.
For example, say you applied for benefits on your own on January 1, 2016, and were denied on July 1, 2016, then immediately filed an appeal for benefits with the help of an advocate and were successful in winning an appeal on December 1, 2016 with $12,000 of past-due benefits. In this case, your advocate’s fee would be $3,000.
Now, let’s say you had a much rockier road to collecting benefits and your past due benefits were worth $40,000. Here, your advocate’s fee would be capped at $6,000—even though 25% of the past-due benefits would equal $10,000.
All in all, you need a disability benefits advocate who is experienced, hardworking, trustworthy, and knowledgeable about the Social Security system. Get started today by contacting Disability Experts of Florida!