The federal government limits how much a Social Security disability attorney gets paid. While other types of attorneys may require a retainer, Social Security disability lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they only receive a fee if and when they win the case. And the Social Security Administration (SSA) will only approve fee petitions that are reasonable.
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
For claimants’ protection, the government moderates the legal fees a Social Security disability attorney can charge. The amounts have changed throughout the years. In the Federal Register Notice published February 4, 2009, the SSA made its most recent statement regarding the authorization of maximum fees attorneys can charge disability claimants.
The rules stipulate that an attorney can recover up to 25 percent of the back pay a claimant receives, up to a maximum of $6,000. (The fees are usually much less than $6,000.) When you seek an attorney’s help with your disability claim, he must provide the SSA with a written agreement between you and the firm, detailing the fee agreement so there are no surprises.
When do Social Security disability attorneys get paid?
Social Security disability lawyers receive their pay out of your back pay settlement from the SSA. You can receive up to 12 months of back pay for retroactive benefits you were due. After the SSA has approved your claim and back benefits, it will withhold and send the attorney the agreed-upon payment for services rendered, and then send you the remaining portion.
For example, if you and your attorney agreed to 25 percent fees and your back pay totals $10,000, when your claim goes through, the SSA will send the attorney $2,500 and you the remaining $7,500. If your claim is not successful, the attorney gets nothing.
Are there any other fees I should be aware of?
The 25 percent/$6,000 limit does not include any out-of-pocket expenses a Social Security disability attorney incurs on your behalf. These expenses are typically nominal (a few hundred dollars), but lawyers do have the right to recover those fees from you irrespective of the outcome of your claim (i.e., even if you lose your case, you might still need to pay certain costs).
Some of the common expenses a lawyer will have to pay upfront for a disability claimant include:
- Obtaining medical records
- Getting opinions from medical experts and other professionals
- Travel expenses
- Expenses for paperwork (e.g., postage, photocopying)
When you work with a disability attorney, he will provide you with an expense agreement that explains how out-of-pocket fees will be handled. Read over your agreement carefully and ask the attorney to clarify anything you do not understand. Many attorneys front you these expenses and recover from you after your case finalizes. Once the SSA has officially decided and closed your case, regardless of whether you win or lose, your attorney will send you a bill for any funds he fronted on your behalf.
Is it worth hiring a disability lawyer for my case?
There are various reasons why hiring a Social Security disability attorney is worth the expense. To name a few:
Better knowledge of the claims process: Most claimants know very little about the claims process, which medical records to provide to prove their disability, and which forms/documents to complete (as well as how to complete them). Social Security disability attorneys know the claims process inside and out and can help you efficiently navigate the system.
Help with appeals: The SSA denies approximately 70 percent of disability claims at the initial level. You can appeal a claim, but there is a very short time limit. When you have an attorney representing you, he will be ready to spring into action and appeal the claim.
Potentially more back pay: Again, no firm can promise you a winning claim or massive back pay, but a Social Security disability attorney might be able to help you obtain a larger amount of back pay by negotiating your Established Onset Date EOD, the date on which the SSA says that you became disabled and that determines how much back pay you are due.
Get a FREE consultation with a disability lawyer today.
For a free consultation with a Social Security disability lawyer, contact The Disability Advantage Group. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have and explain how we may be able to help you obtain the disability benefits you and your family need. Call our office today at 865-566-0800.