Do Social Security Disability and SSI Lawyers Require A Retainer? (Fees and costs)

Disability lawyers and disability representatives are not allowed to demand a retainer for their services. Disability attorneys or representatives receive one fourth of any back payment of benefits that are due the disability beneficiary or their dependents (spouse or children) up to the maximum fee amount allowable (see How much does a Social Security Disability attorney get paid?).

If the maximum allowed fee is collected from the disabled beneficiary's back payment, nothing will be taken from their dependents' back pay. However, if the maximum fee amount was not collected from the disabled beneficiary's back payment, then one fourth of their dependent's back payment will be taken in an effort to pay the attorney or representative the maximum fee amount that is due to them per the fee agreement that was signed.

In addition to the maximum fee, disability lawyers or non-lawyer representatives are allowed to charge what are known as incidental fees. Incidental fees might include reimbursement for travel, copies, medical records, vocational or medical experts, phone charges, etc. and they are allowable if the disability applicant agreed to pay them when they signed their fee agreement with their representative.

Fee agreements are legally binding agreements between representatives and their clients that contain the agreed upon fee amount and incidental expenses. Some lawyers and Social Security non-attorney representatives ask that disability claimants pay incidental expenses whether they win or lose their disability case while others may ask that the expenses be paid only if they win their case. It just depends upon the disability lawyer or representative.

The important thing for disability claimants to remember is fee agreements are legally binding and that disability lawyers and representatives can demand payment for anything the disability applicant agreed to pay when they signed the their fee agreement. It goes without saying that if a disability applicant chooses to obtain the services of a paid representative, either an attorney or non-attorney, they should read their fee agreement carefully before signing.

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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