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On April 30, 2014, The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) granted accreditation to the NALA Certified Paralegal program for demonstrating compliance with the NCCA Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. NCCA is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. The NCCA Standards were created to ensure certification programs adhere to modern standards of practice for the certification industry.  The NALA Certified Paralegal program joins an elite group of more than 120 organizations representing over 270 certification programs that have received and maintained NCCA accreditation. More information on the NCCA is available online at www.credentialingexcellence.org/NCCA

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Social Security Disability

This page summarizes the Social Security Disability Advanced Paralegal Certification course. Use the links below to review the items, register or login to the course. If you have not already registered as a user on the NALA APC web site, click "Register for the Course." If you have already registered for this or another APC course, you have already created a user account, click "Login."

Paralegals who are not seeking the Advanced Paralegal Certification credential are welcome to register and take any APC courses as advanced continuing education programs. CLE credit is available upon completion of the courses from NALA for Certified Paralegals, and from various state CLE programs.

Prerequisite Knowledge Learning Contract Register for the course
Fee:   $250 Members; $300 Non Members

Course Description

This APC course is for those currently assisting claimants in the Social Security Disability claims process; those who want to refresh and calibrate their existing skills and knowledge; and for those interested in working within this process and the opportunities it provides. 

The course covers the terminology, ethics, representation requirements, administrative structure, processes, and common activities encountered in the social security disability claims process. It also examines the decision-making process used by administrative law judges to award or deny social security disability claims.

The course objectives are as follows. Those who complete this course should be able to:

  • Define the terms and acronyms frequently encountered in the social security disability claims process
  • Define the role of the representative in the claims process and the requirements for representation
  • Describe the social security disability claims process and the documentation, persons, and entities involved throughout
  • Describe the criteria used in determining the award or denial of a disability claim
  • Describe how claimant’s testimony, medical documentation, and work history are used to support the limitation criteria used in the claim ruling
  • Describe how the inconsistencies in testimony, documentation, and work history can be addressed
  • Describe the components of preparation, presentation, and presence to effectively represent a claimant
  • Identify what considerations should be taken by a representative when deciding to accept a claimant as a client

The course material includes highlights of anticipated rule changes.

The text for course modules is from Social Security Disability and the Legal Professional, 1st Edition, (c) 2003., by Jeffrey Scott Wolfe and Lisa B. Proszek, Attorney at Law.  Text is reprinted with permission of Delmar Learning, a division of Thomson Learning, www.thomsonrights.com, fax 800-370-2215. 

Course Modules

The Advanced Paralegal Certification course on Social Security Disability consists of successful completion of 14 modules of text, assessments, and assignments.  The modules and their subjects are as follows:

1. Defining Social Security Benefits
In Module 1,we will discuss how to define social security benefits and identify the differences between Title II and Title XVI disability claims.
Roles and Responsibilities of Representatives
In this module,you will learn to:
• Identify who may serve as a representative
• Identify the use of 1696 and the SSA’s definition of competence
• Identify the roles and responsibilities of the:
Social Security Administration
Vocational Expert
Medical Expert
Administrative Law Judge
Appeals Council
Application and Reconsideration
In this module you will learn to:
• Identify steps within application and reconsideration
• Identify common entry points of the representative in the SSD claims process
4. Hearing and Appeal
In this module the steps within the hearing and appeals process are discussed in detail.
5. Representative Involvement and Payment
In this module we will discuss
• Common entry points of the representative in the SSD claims process
• How to get paid by the SSA  
6. Claimant Initial Interview
 In this module we will discuss:
• Information required to gather and document during the initial interview with a claimant
•Use of the five-step sequential evaluation process in sequencing and gathering information in the initial interview
7. Step 2 - Impairments, Symptoms and Limitations
In this module you will learn to:
• Identify the difference between impairments, symptoms, and limitations
• Identify roles of impairments, symptoms, and limitations in substantiating the claim
• Match a claimant’s description to an impairment, symptom, or limitation
8. Step 3:  Using Medical Listings
In this module you will learn to:
• Identify when a claimant’s impairment meets a medical listing
• Identify and define how medical listings are used in determining a claim’s award status
• Identify how the use of a medical expert impacts the argument for the claim meeting a medical listing
9. Step 3 1/2:  Deriving Residual Functional Capacity from Limitations
In this module you will learn to:
• Identify the types of testimony and evidence best suited to persuade the ALJ that limitations exist
• Identify the relationships among limitations, symptoms, and impairments in determining RFC
• Identify documentation best suited to support the finding of impairments
• Define symptoms, medical signs, and laboratory findings
• Identify the differences between medical signs and laboratory findings and when they should be used
10. Step 3 1/2:  Determining and Proving Residual Functional Capacity
 In this module you will learn to:
• Identify the standard of proof required in SSD claim cases
• Identify requirements and appropriate evidence and sources for the ALJ to recognize a limitation
• Identify requirements and important details related to recognizing impairments
• Identify how pain-related limitation can most effectively be entered in the record for the ALJ’s consideration
• Identify proper questioning techniques to lend credibility and detail to pain-related testimony
• Identify potential pitfalls in using or submitting medical source statements
11. Step 4:  Past Relevant Work
 In this module you will learn to:
• Identify how past work experience is defined and considered at step 4
• Identify the role of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT)
• Identify the vocational factors affecting the ALJ’s assessment at step 4 and their importance
• Identify the role and process of the Vocational Expert in reviewing the case file and providing testimony at step 4
• Identify the role and content of the DEQY and SEQY documents as related to step 4
12. Step 5:  Other Competitive Work
 In this module you will learn to:
• Identify the role and components of the “Grids” in step 5 of disability determination
• Identify the factors considered in age, education, and skills and their impact on the ALJ’s determination
• Identify the role the ALJ plays and the method used in VE inquiry at step 5
• Identify how age, education, previous work experience, and transferability of skills are considered in the step 5 VE inquiry
• Identify common pitfalls for representatives at step 5 in addressing whether future work can be performed
13. Administrative Law Judge Examination of Vocational Experts
 In this module you will learn to:
• Identify typical line of questioning techniques used by the ALJ when examining the VE at step 4
• Identify typical line of questioning techniques used by the ALJ when examining the VE at step 5
• Identify strategies for cross-examining at step 4 to introduce further evidenced limitations in the ALJ’s consideration
• Identify the typical sequence of types of questions during examination by the ALJ at steps 4 and 5
• Identify how non-exertional limitations can be included in consideration through cross-examination of the VE
 14. The Modular Disability Folder
 In this module you will learn to:
• Identify the 5-parts of the modular disability folder (MDF)
• Identify typical documents found in each part of the MDF
• Identify critical documents within each folder section
• Identify documents included in the Disability Application Supplement

This module will also quickly review the applications and reports filed as a part of the claims and representation process.  The forms filed for Title II and Title XVI applications are included in the review.