Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

The Social Security Disability Representation Fee and What a Lawyer is Paid

Disability lawyers are entitled to be paid up to 1/4th of an individual’s back pay, and the amount of the fee for representation is currently capped by the Social Security Administration at $6,000. This fee is not a retainer; it is awarded to the attorney contingent upon if he wins the case. In other words, if he loses the case, he cannot collect a fee (other than incidental expenses included in the fee agreement.)

Social Security has raised the maximum allowable fee over the past 10 years from $4,000 to $6000. However, if you win, you do not necessarily pay the maximum. For instance, if the total back pay is $20,000, your attorney is entitled to collect only $5,000; if your total backpay is $1,200, your attorney can collect only $300, and so forth.

On the other hand, as previously noted, most attorneys and non-attorney reps will include incidental expenses in their fee agreements, perhaps charges for copying, obtaining medical records, travel, etc., so be sure to read any fee agreement carefully before signing it. Incidental expenses are due regardless of a claim’s outcome.

If at any point during your case you become dissatisfied with your legal representative, you can usually let him go without financial penalty, unless of course you do this right before your hearing, after he has presumably done a considerable amount of preparation and leg work.

If you wait until the eleventh hour to switch representatives, your prior attorney will be more likely to dispute the fee (although, in all candor, it would be up to the attorney who is being discharged to decide whether or not he will file a fee petition, which is a claim for a portion of the representation fee, based on the work that he has performed on the case up to the time of the attorney's discharge).

You may wish to check in with your attorney regularly for status updates on your case to determine if you are indeed satisfied with your representation. Switching attorneys is best done well in advance of the actual hearing.

Granted, some people decide not to obtain legal counsel of any sort before their hearing; legal representation is not required at any stage of the disability process. Yet, while the idea of keeping all the back pay is understandably attractive, claimants are strongly cautioned that, according to government statistics, those who are represented by an attorney at an SSD or SSI hearing are about 50% more likely to win a case at the hearing level versus claimants who are not represented.

Given the fact that it can take up to two years to get the opportunity to appear before a disability judge (due to backlogs in the system), and the fact that, should you lose your case you usually have no choice other than to give up or to start all over again with a new claim, it makes little sense to go before a judge without adequate preparation, which usually implies legal assistance. The stakes are simply too high at this level of representation to take any unnecessary risks.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Does Social Security pay the Disability Attorney fee?
What is the maximum fee a Social Security disability attorney can charge?
What Can A Disability Lawyer Charge For Their Services - Fees and Expenses?
What Expenses Will A Social Security Attorney Charge In Addition To The Fee?
The Social Security Disability Representation Fee and What a Lawyer is Paid
If You Are Represented For Social Security Disability or SSI, When Do You Pay The Fee?
How does a Social Security attorney get paid?
How do Disability Lawyers in North Carolina get paid their fees?
SSDI and divorce, will my SSDI increase?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria