What is the maximum fee a Social Security Disability attorney can charge?

If you decide to get representation for your disability claim with the social security administration, you can choose to be represented by an attorney or a non-attorney. This may be surprising to some, the fact your claim may be represented by someone who is not a lawyer.

However, Social security law is not law per se. At the early levels, it is administrative regulation and procedure. In fact, this is why disability applications and reconsideration appeals (the request for reconsideration is the very first appeal you can file) are actually processed by disability examiners, individuals who have been trained to evaluate medical information and who have been trained as to how the social security administration decides disability claims, but who, obviously, are not lawyers.

Are you better off going with a lawyer versus a non-attorney disability representative? Not necessarily. Some lawyers tend to dabble in a wide variety of legal areas, becoming amateurs in all but experts in none. You really don't want that kind of lawyer handling your case.

On the other hand, there are many non attorney representatives who used to work in social security field offices and used to work as disability examiners for SSA. These individuals are intimately familiar with the Social Security Disability system and can provide extremely able representation.

The maximum fee that can be charged by either a Social Security Disability attorney or a non-attorney Social Security Disability representative is the same amount. And it is only paid in the event that a case is won.

In other words, if you have representation and your case is not won, you cannot be charged a fee for representation. However, win or lose, you can be charged for other expenses that are not related to the fee for representation, such as reimbursing your representative for the cost of obtaining medical records, or the cost of postage, or travel expenses.

How is the fee for representation determined? The fee that is charged by a disability representative is based on the amount of back pay that is won by a claimant. It is equal to 25 percent of whatever back pay a disability claimant is eligible to receive. However, it is also capped at a maximum fee amount, which is the very most a representative can receive regardless of how much back pay a claimant wins.

To see the current maximum fee amount, visit this page: How much does a Social Security Disability attorney get paid?

The following is an example of an uncommon situation that was brought up in a recent question.

Question: "The lawyer I am considering hiring wants me to pay 21% of back-pay with no cap if I win at any step after my case has been to the appeals council for the first time (i.e., if I win in federal court , or I win at any time after a federal court or appeals council remand.) Furthermore, the contract does not limit my attorney's right to file a fee petition if there are no back benefits payable. Is this normal?"

Answer: In reading the SSA regulations, it appears that this may very well be normal. You do not have to take your claim to Federal Court, you could file a new disability claim and go through the process again. The protected maximum on a fee agreement appears to end at the Appeal Council. Go to Google and search this reference: GN 03920.060 Attorneys' Fees for Representation in Proceedings Before a Court

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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