“The bottom line is that to really become a social security disability advocate, one would have to pass the bar exam and be qualified to practice law in some state or jurisdiction.”
I have been a Social Security non-attorney representative for the last eight years and have represented hundreds of clients on their claims for both SSI/SSDI. I have also argued hundreds of cases before an ALJ and have won the majority of my cases. I have taken and passed the SSA exam for non-representatives. Regardless of whether you are an attorney or an accredited non-attorney representative, to become a really good Social Security disability advocate, you must have a full knowledge of the CFR pertaining to sections 4.04 and 4.16, SSA’s POM’s and Rulings, SSA’s Blue Book of Listings, and the Grid Rules. You should also understand the sequential process SSA uses in determining disability and whether the individual you are representing will either meet a medical listing for the condition(s) that they have, or whether they will meet the RFC requirement for a 12 month disability.
I have dealt with attorneys who demonstrated a very clear knowledge of all of the above, but I’ve also handled some bungled cases where the attorney originally involved was totally clueless. As an example of a case I argued before an ALJ, I was able to get him to award benefits on the claimant’s first claim that was lost at a hearing the previous year because the attorney clearly didn’t understand the claimant’s medical information and did not know how to properly question the ME to determine if claimant was at listing level or not.
The bottom line, then, is that an individual should make sure he/she is being represented by an advocate, either an attorney or an accredited non-attorney representative, who fully understands SSA law pertaining to Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act and can fully represent that individual to the best of his ability and knowledge.