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What's the difference between a disability/elder lawyer and a social security lawyer?

Atlanta, GA |

I am on SSI. I had received monies from a class action back in 2008 which were properly deposited (trust). Recently, I've received monies from a second class action which were also deposited into that same trust. However, I represented myself to SSA and now I'm in a confusing situation regarding the 2nd settlement. I have 60 days to appeal to SSA.
A disability lawyer set up the 1st trust but no longer retain her services. My question is who can represent me at the SSA office - a disability or a social security lawyer?
Dealing with government hassle is stressful and confusing. Does SSA offer free lawyers, advocates or representatives?

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Attorney answers 5

Best Answer

The difference you are looking for requires an attorney who understands the SSI income and asset rules, AND the language in your trust documents.

As you know, if you have income, or if you have assets that exceed the levels allowed by SSI, SSI reduces or cuts off the monthly income you need to pay your living expenses..

You need an attorney who understands what those trusts say, and how transferring your settlement money to the trusts affects your SSI income. Until you get solid counsel on how the trusts fit together with your monthly income and assets, you can't tell the case workers at Social Security how you want them to view your case.

You can get links to Social Security booklets on the SSI income and assets rules at:

But these are just the starting points for discussion with an attorney who can explain and protect your interests. The money that your Trustee takes out of your trusts must be properly allocated to your supplemental needs. Otherwise, if the money goes to buy food or pay rent, SSI is going to reduce your monthly benefits.

Rgulations in your state that affect your health insurance must also be understood and explained by your attorney.

Ask your state bar association or the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

to recommend an attorney who knows about SSI, trust law in your state, and your state's health insurance programs.

-John L. Roberts
Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate and Disability Law
Longmeadow - Springfield, Massachusetts


SSA does not offer free attorneys. Attorneys practice in specific areas, but it is not like we are minted as only be able to do one thing. So an attorney may specialize in both elder care and social security law. If you are looking for an attorney, just start asking around and if the attorney in your area cannot help you, he or she may refer you to someone who can. I would add that I find your question confusing and I am exactly sure what you feel you need or what you might want to appeal. Good luck.

The information is for general information purposes only. Receipt of this information or e-mail from our website, or other communications should NOT be construed as legal advice for any individual case or situation, nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship.


Except for attorneys who qualify for certain certifications, adopting names for the nature of our practices is not regulated. Social Security does not provide attorneys for beneficiaries, and most attorneys who practice Social Security law are involved with establishing disability, either SSI or SSDI. Private attorneys do not typically get involved in your type of SSI case, which I understand to be the appeal of a termination of benefits, because there isn't a fund of benefits from which an attorney can be paid. Two possible resources for legal assistance where compenstation is not an issue are legal aid programs and public benefits nonprofit advocates. It may take some effort to find the right one, but I am confident they exist in your area.

This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.


Disability law could include private disability benefits (STD, LTD, etc.), Veterans Administration disability programs, other federal or state disability programs, state union or local employer pension and disability programs, vocational rehabilitation services issues or even disability rights - such as in employment or public accommodations, etc.

An elder law lawyer would focus on any of the many issues that elderly folks face - long term care, wills and trusts and other estate planning matters, elder abuse, or probably a 1001 other things.

A Social Security lawyer focuses all or part of her practice on Social Security cases - almost always the vast majority of these are disability or SSI disability cases rather than retirement issues or whatnot.

Contact NOSSCR to find a Social Security attorney in your area, look for one offering a free no-obligation initial consultation (most do) then meet with one or more and sign up with one you are comfortable with.

NOSSCR Lawyer Referral Service - For help in finding attorney representation, contact its lawyer referral service during Eastern business hours:


Disclaimer Information on this site is provided by Brian Scott Wayson as general information, not legal advice, and use of this information does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions about your specific situation, please call an attorney.


I just wanted to add that you can try Legal Aid in your state to see if anyone there can help you. The state's bar association may have a list of attorneys who do pro bono work. Lastly, if there is a disability rights legal office in GA, you might check there to see if anyone might be able to help.

Attorney Inga Stevens is licensed in Maine. She provides general information on No attorney-client relationship arises out of the information given here.