If You Are Represented For Social Security Disability or SSI, When Do You Pay The Fee?

Social Security requires disability attorneys and non-attorney disability representatives to follow Social Security fee payment guidelines when they represent disability applicants. If you obtain representation services from an attorney or non-attorney representative, you do not pay a retainer or a fee upfront. Social Security allows your representative to collect a representation fee equal to twenty- five percent of any back payment up to a specified maximum (currently, this is $6000.00 but the max is subject to change every few years) if your disability claim is approved.

If you are not approved, they are not entitled to a fee for their representation. But while they may not be entitled to a representation fee if you have no back payment or are denied, they still may be entitled to collect payment for incidental expenses.

Incidental expenses are outlined in the fee agreement you sign with your representative. Incidental expenses might include but are not limited to copy expenses, telephone calls, medical records, travel, or any other expense incurred during your disability case. Social Security fee agreements are legally binding contracts for payment. Some collect agreed upon incidental fees whether you win or lose your disability claim, while others collect only if you win, and still others charge no incidental fees at all.

It is important to read your fee agreement thoroughly. Only sign the agreement if you agree with the fee and incidental expenses.

Generally, Social Security pays your representation fee prior to paying you your back payment benefits. However they do not pay your agreed upon incidental expenses prior to paying you your back payment. Consequently, you are still obligated to pay your representative for any agreed upon expenses once you receive your back payment.

While Social Security pays most disability representation fees through fee withholding, there are exceptions. There are some non-attorney representatives who are not eligible for fee withholding and there are attorneys who prefer not to use fee withholding. In these cases, you are still for paying the representation fee and incidental expenses out of your disability back payment.

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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