Social Security Disability Appeal Attorney fees
The Social Security Administration has rules governing attorneys and representatives with regard to the amount of their fee and when a fee can be collected.
Attorneys and Social Security representatives cannot charge a fee for their services if they do not win your disability case. If you are not approved for disability benefits, they will not receive a fee for their services; they will however be able to collect on any expenses you agreed to pay when you signed your fee agreement. Expenses might include but are not limited to medical records, travel, or vocational experts.
If you have an attorney, they cannot request you pay any kind of up front retainer for their services.
If your attorney or representative wins your disability case, they are entitled to receive 21% of your back payment of benefits up to a maximum of $6000.00 (current maximum) provided there is a back payment of benefits.
If 21% is less than $6000.00, you pay the lesser amount. Again, reimbursable expenses agreed upon in your fee agreement are outside the fee maximum.
Also, please note: Your representative can collect a percentage of any dependent who is entitled on your record if it turns out that they are not able to collect the entire $6000.00 from your back payment.
They are allowed 21% of their back payments as well. For example, if they were able to collect $4000.00 of their fee from you, they can collect a maximum of 2000.00 from any dependents entitled on your record.
The fee agreement is a contract
If you sign a fee agreement with an attorney or representative, it is legally binding. This means they are entitled to their fee and any agreed upon expenses. If you decide in the middle of your disability claim that you do not want to keep your representative, you can notify Social Security of your decision and they will remove them. However, this does not remove your obligation to pay their fee even if you have another representative.
In order for you not to be responsible for a fee, the former representative has to provide Social Security a letter of withdrawal that states they will waive their fee.
So what happens if they refuse to provide the letter? They can petition the judge for a fair fee for the work they performed on your claim prior to your obtaining the services of another representative.
Sometimes their fee petition is denied, other times they may be entitled to a partial or full fee amount based on your back payment. Technically, you could be liable for two full fee amounts. So if you chose a representative or attorney, you should plan on staying with them if at all possible.
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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