Social Security Disability Lawyers and 21% Back Pay

Social Security allows non-attorney disability representatives and disability attorneys to collect a fee of 25% of any back payment up to 6000.00 (this is the maximum amount allowable as of August of 2014, however this amount can change periodically).

This means an individual's attorney or representative can charge 25% of all back pay due to the disabled individual as well as any dependent benefits payable on the individual's record up to that maximum amount.

If an individual has no back pay or their back pay is less than the maximum amount, the attorney or representative can only collect 25% of whatever back pay is available to the disabled individual and their dependents. Sometimes that means nothing if there is no back pay, or a smaller fee for the attorney if there is very little back pay.

Regarding fee agreements

Individuals entering into fee agreements for representation should be careful about the expenses they agree to pay. Some attorneys and non-attorney representatives charge for incidental expenses (i.e. phone calls, medical records, travel, medical or vocational experts, etc) along with the standard fee amount that is mandated by SSA.

Additionally, some disability attorneys or non-attorney representatives expect that these "other expenses" will be paid whether the individual is approved for disability benefits or not. This is why it is extremely important to read any fee agreement prior to signing. Fee agreements are legally binding agreements.

If the attorney or non attorney representative is entitled to 25% of a smaller portion of the back pay, is this dependent upon when the attorney or not attorney came on to the case? The answer to this question is that it does not matter when an individual obtains the services of their disability attorney or representative. If the case is won, the fee will be 25% of any back payment up to the maximum amount allowable, regardless of when they hired the attorney.

So the fee for representation on a disability claim would be 25% of any back payment or the maximum, whichever is less, plus any agreed upon incidental expenses.

This is the same if the attorney represents the disabled individual at the initial disability claim through the disability hearing, or if the individual waits until their disability hearing to obtain the attorney's services.

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.

Questions and Answers

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