When a person seeks disability benefits through a state or federal program -- often through the Social Security Administration -- they sometimes need help navigating the forms and handling the details. That's where a disability advocate comes in. To become one, the Social Security Administration has certain guidelines for advocates who want to receive part of a claimant's payments in order to get paid for the service.
If you're not an attorney and you want to be able to collect payments directly from clients' Social Security payouts, you'll need to have a bachelor's degree, pass a background check and a Social Security rules and regulations exam, and have liability insurance. As of 2014, the test is administered once a year through CPS HR Consulting. To study, request copies of the The 20 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Chapter III (parts 400-499), as well as the Compilation of Social Security Laws, Volume I, from CPS HR Consulting. You can be an advocate without the certification, but you can't get paid through client Social Security payouts. Contact a company offering disability advocate training, such as The Advocate Income Network or the American Disability Advocates College. Training lasts several weeks or months and covers case management and how to create formal arguments for clients, as well as software and marketing. Programs can cost between $1,000 and several thousand dollars.
Advocacy for Attorneys
Attorneys in good standing with the state bar can seek certification through the National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy. As part of your application, you'll need to have five years of experience in Social Security law and demonstrate that you've had substantial involvement with this area of law -- typically at least one-third of your practice. You'll also need to submit six related legal briefs, take a written exam, and show evidence of continuing education in the field.