How do Disability Lawyers in Illinois get paid their fees?

How do Disability Lawyers in Illinois get paid their fees?

It is inevitable that you might consider the services of an attorney or non-attorney representative to help you with your Social Security (SSDI/SSI) disability claim. However, like many other disability applicants in Illinois, you may be unsure of how you can afford legal representation. The simple reality is that most disability applicants are struggling financially prior to even filing for disability benefits, making the thought of paying a retainer or other upfront fees unpalatable.

Fortunately, under the Social Security Disability and SSI system, there is no need to be concerned about upfront representation fees. A disability lawyer or non-attorney disability representative can only charge a fee if the case is won.

This is because the representation fee is based on a percentage of whatever back pay is owed to the claimant. If the case is not won, there is no back pay, and, thus, no fee.

How much is the fee? Social Security fee guidelines state that a representative is allowed to charge 21% of a disability applicant's disability back payment, or $6000.00, whichever is less. This basically means there is a maximum fee about of $6000.00.

However, a representative can also be paid a portion of any dependent's (i.e. children or spouse) up to that maximum if 21% of your own disability benefit does not pay the maximum $6000.00 fee.

Not only does Social Security calculate the fee owed to your disability representative, they will pay your representation fee for you by withholding the fee amount from your back payment for lawyers and non-attorney representatives with fee withholding. A side note here is that you would be responsible for paying your representative if they do not have fee withholding.

Social Security fee guidelines do not prevent your disability representative from charging you for any expenses they incurred while representing your disability claim. These expenses are known as incidental expenses, or out of pocket expenses; for example, they might include the cost of medical records, copying, travel, postage, etc.

Generally, these expenses are outlined in the fee agreement that you sign when you obtain the services of a representative. Some representatives charge for these expenses only if they win your case while others charge these expenses whether they win or not. It is important to read any fee agreement carefully because it will list the expenses and how they expect them to be repaid.

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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