When does a disability attorney receive a fee?

Someone wrote this in a forum, in response to another individual's situation: "A disability attorney will not be paid until you have received your disability back pay benefits".

Is this true? Well, close but not just quite. As I've mentioned here many times before, a disability attorney receives as his or her fee, a portion of your disability back pay. Currently this is limited to 21% of your back pay, up to a maximum limit of $6000.00

So, obviously, a disability attorney cannot be paid a fee for providing representation that is based on back pay unless they actually win a disability case.

However, it is often the case (and I really do mean often) that a disability attorney will receive his or her fee from the social security administration well before the claimant receives their backpay. Why this happens, I'm not entirely sure.

However, it may simply be easier for SSA to do this since the attorney fee is easily calculated, whereas, if a claimant is approved for both Social Security Disability and SSI disability (known as a concurrent claim), getting the backpay distribution correct usually takes a payment center longer to accomplish (sometimes on the order of months, unfortunately).

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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