Social Security Disability Advocacy

This article by Lawyer Legion explains the board certification program for social security disability advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA).

To earn certification as a board certified specialist in social security disability law by the NBTA, the attorney must provide substantial involvement in this specialty area of the law by spending at least 30 percent of his or her time in the specialty area during each of the last three years.

To become a board-certified Social Security Disability lawyer by the NBTA, the attorney must show substantial involvement in the specialty area of the law by being involved in at least 100 Social Security Disability hearings, filed at least 20 appeals council briefs, filed at least 10 federal court briefs and fulfilled certain educational and CLE requirements.


NBTA Board Certification in Social Security Disability Law

To become board certified in Social Security Disability law by the NBTA, the attorney must:

1. Furnish evidence of his or her good standing in the state of his or her admission, or if admitted in more than one state, in the state of his or her principal practice.

2. Spend at least five (5) years in the actual practice of Social Security Disability law immediately before making application.

3. Make a satisfactory showing of substantial involvement relevant to Social Security Disability law including a showing that at least thirty (30) percent of the applicant’s practice must be spent on social security disability law three (3) years prior to the date of submission of the application.

4. Demonstrate substantial involvement in specialized practice, by showing that he or she has performed the following task requirements within the attorneys' career:

a. Appeared in no fewer than one hundred (100) Social Security Disability Hearings (at least 30 of the 100 hearings must be in the 3 years prior to application);

b. Filed no less than twenty (20) appeals council briefs (4 of the 20 briefs must be in the3 years prior to application). The applicant must list the submissions to provide privacy for the claimant to prevent a violation of SS Act 42 USC 1306(a) and the Privacy Act, 5 USC 552a.

c. Filed no less than ten (10) briefs in United States District Court or the Circuit Court of Appeals; (2 of the 10 must be in the 3 years prior to application), OR

d. A combination of hearings, appeals council brief filings and district court brief filings which demonstrates substantial involvement in social security disability practice equivalent to requirements (a) through (c) above as approved by the Standards Committee.

5. Demonstrate substantial participation in continuing legal education and the development of social security disability practice and law in the three year period immediately preceding the application either:

a. By attendance and / or electronic participation in not less than thirty-six (36) hours in programs in continuing legal education in social security disability law approved by the Standards Committee within the three year period preceding application for certification.

b. By equivalent participation through, but not limited to, the following as approved by the Standards Committee:

i. Teaching courses or seminars in social security disability law or ethics;

ii. Participation as a panelist, speaker, workshop leader or the equivalent at educational or professional conferences and meetings;

iii. Authorship of books or articles published in professional journals on social security disability law; OR

iv. By a combination of (i) through (iii) above.

For attorneys in Florida, South Carolina and Ohio, the rules require a higher number of CLE credit hours in order to advertise or communicate the NBTA certification.

6. Submit ten to twelve names of those substantially involved in the relevant field of social security disability law and be familiar with the applicant’s practice. The list must include at least four administrative law judges before whom you have appeared in a matter in the relevant field during the past three years and the remaining names may be either peer practitioners, opposing counsel at the federal court level, district court judges, medical or vocational experts or additional administrative law judges familiar with the applicants practice during the past three years. The NBTA must receive at least six satisfactory references consisting of three administrative law judges before whom the applicant has appeared as a social security disability advocate not more than three years before the date of application. The remaining three references must be one or more of the following: peer practitioners, opposing counsel at the federal court level, district court judges or additional administrative law judges familiar with the applicant’s practice.

7. Pass a written exam which will test his or her enhanced level of skill, expertise, knowledge and experience in social security disability law.

8. Submit 6 copies of legal writing which he or she has prepared & filed no more than three (3) years before the date of application that contain concise and accurate writing, stating facts (either actual or hypothetical), stating applicable law, analysis of how the law applies to the facts, written in an appropriately argumentative manner and well constructed (i.e. organized, grammatical, demonstrative of good syntax and usage) including:

a. Administrative--The applicant shall submit two memoranda or detailed letters which s/he has prepared and filed with an administrative law judge in anticipation of conducting a hearing in a Social Security Disability (SSD) case (including requests for decisions on the record) or after conducting a hearing but before the judge has decided the claim. As part of the submission, the applicant must obtain a waiver from the claimant so as to prevent a violation of SS Act 42 USC 1306(a) and the Privacy Act, 5 USC 552a.

b. Council--The applicant shall submit two appeals council briefs which s/he has prepared and filed. These will be substantial memoranda or briefs stating facts, arguing law, submitted no more than three (3) years prior to the date of the application. As part of the submission, the applicant must obtain a waiver from the claimant so as to prevent a violation of SS Act 42 USC 1306(a) and the Privacy Act, 5 USC 552a.

c. Federal Appeals--The applicant shall submit two briefs prepared and filed by the applicant in US District Court or the Circuit Court of Appeals within three (3) years prior to the date of the application.

9. Disclose to the National Board of Trial Advocacy the filing of any criminal charges against the applicant together with all details called for by the Disclosure of Conduct Form, the filing or submission of any allegation of unethical or inappropriate professional conduct with any court, grievance committee, social security administration or disciplinary board or body, the assertion of any claim of professional negligence or professional liability, whether or not suit has been filed, which is based in any part on alleged acts or omissions of the applicant or member or on the acts or omissions of any other attorney over whom the applicant or member had any responsibility together with all details called for by the Disclosure of Conduct Form.


Additional Resources:

Board Certified Attorneys in Social Security Disability Law - Visit the website for the National Board of Trial Advocates to learn more about becoming a board certified specialist in social security disability law. Find information how board certification programs help the public find a qualified attorney with experience representing claimants in social security disability claims, handling hearings as counsel for a claimant, and handling appeals after a denial with an Administrative Law Judge. Find information for the public explaining why representation from your Long Term Disability (LTD) insurance carrier might not be a board certified attorney. The information explains why a person with LTD still has the right to obtain their own legal representation which should not increase the fees paid. Find out how a person can assist their board certified Social Security disability lawyer by providing a copy of the last denial, a list of the doctors or hospitals where treatment was obtained, information on the claimant's work history, and a list of prescribed medications.