Why anyone can afford to be represented on a disability claim

It occurred to me at one point (and it has reoccurred to me many times since then) that, in the U.S., one's ability to seek and derive justice, and one's treatment in the justice system itself, may be mediated by one's finance's, i.e. ability to pay upfront. Getting assistance on a traffic case is one example of this phenomenon. If you have the cash (and depending on the infraction and the state of your driving record, you may need considerably more cash), you can get an attorney and possibly walk away with a mild slap on the wrist. If you don't have the cash...hello points.

Fortunately, the Social Security Disability and ssi disability system doesn't work this way. Representatives who handle disability claims (attorneys and non attorney representatives alike) are paid a fee that is equal to one-quarter of a claimant's backpay. And the total fee has a cap (the cap is $6000). Translation: what you pay to a disability lawyer or non attorney rep:

1. has nothing to do with your ongoing monthly benefits if you get approved.

2. only comes out of whatever backpay that the social security administration owes you, assuming you get approved.

3. can never exceed a defined maximum regardless of how much backpay that SSA owes you.

and most importantly----

4. is only paid if and when a case is won.

Number 4 on this list is the reason why anyone can be represented on a Social Security Disability or SSI disability claim. A claimant does not have to fork over a huge amount of cash to find help and assistance on a disability claim.

Why do I bring this up? Because, unfortunately, some individuals will actually put off trying to find representation based solely on the assumption that they can't afford to hire a representative. And the truth is 180 degrees removed from this assumption. ANYONE can afford to hire someone for their SSD (Social Security Disability) or SSI disability claim.

And thank goodness the system is this way. Because disability claimants already have quite a bit to contend with, generally including an inability at some point to meet their financial obligations (mortgage and utilities), an inability to get proper medical treatment (because of health insurance running out), and an inability to get prescriptions filled (perhaps the most awful aspect of having to wait so long on a claim).

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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