It is common knowledge that it is difficult to get approved for Social Security disability, and fighting for approval can mean multiple hearings and appeals. It could even require you to fight in federal court. It can take many years to get Social Security to agree that you are disabled. There is no question that a disability attorney is critical to successfully receiving Social Security disability.
Social Security Basic Fee Regulations
Federal law limits the amount your attorney can receive to 25 percent of your backpay or $6,000, whichever amount is lower. Your backpay is the amount that accumulated while you were waiting for the case to be decided and that amount depends on:
- What type of disability you are applying for
- When you applied for disability
- When your disability began
The most common method used by Social Security is to withhold one quarter of your past-due benefits, and that money is sent directly to your attorney. The fee is capped at $6,000, but it is usually much less. If your case is successful, your attorney may not charge any additional fees. They must submit a fee agreement to Social Security which explains the terms and your signature as well as the attorney’s is required on the form.
When Can a Lawyer Charge More?
There are situations where an attorney may charge more than 25 percent or $6,000 for the case. If you fired a previous attorney and hired a new one, the new attorney may be eligible for additional fees. If you are denied benefits and you must appeal to the Appeals Council or you must take the case to federal court, your lawyer may request a higher fee by filing a petition with Social Security.
Two-Tier Fee Agreements
It is possible that the Social Security Administration may agree to a two-tier fee agreement if an attorney can prove they have done an unusual amount of work. For instance, if you were denied at the hearing level and must proceed with additional appeals. A two-tier agreement permits the attorney to submit a fee petition rather than accepting the standard 25 percent or $6,000.
The fee petition must include an itemized list of what your attorney has done on the case and is submitted once the case is completed. If the fees are reasonable, Social Security will approve them and issue payment to the attorney from your backpay. You do have the right to object to a fee petition. A fee petition may not be submitted if you and your attorney have already agreed to a contingency fee and that agreement was accepted by Social Security.
The 25 percent or $6,000 cap does not include out-of-pocket expenses your lawyer may incur. These expenses may include the cost of medical records, expert and medical opinions, postage, travel, copying, and long-distance calls. You will have to sign an expense agreement when you hire the attorney. Read the expense agreement. Read the agreement carefully so you know exactly what additional expenses will be expected.
Remember that non-medical requirements should also be taken into account to make sure you are covered for the program. You want to be sure that the expenses will not completely eliminate any back pay you receive.
If you have been denied for Social Security disability, contact an attorney to learn more about your legal options. Many claims that are originally denied will later go on to be approved with an attorney’s help. A lawyer can also help you file an appeal if your benefits are denied.