How do Disability Lawyers in Virginia get paid their fees?

How do Disability Lawyers in Virginia get paid their fees?

Many disability applicants are reluctant to hire an attorney or non-attorney representative to help them with their disability claim in Virginia because they do not think they can afford their fees. Most disability claimants simply do not have the money to pay retainers, upfront fees, or any other attorney fees.

Fortunately, Social Security decided decades ago that disability applicants should be able to have the benefit of qualified representation for their disability claims. To that end, they do not allow Social Security Disability representatives, attorney or non-attorney, to charge any kind of retainers or upfront fees and they limit the amount of the representation fee to 21% of your disability benefit back payment, up to an absolute maximum of $6000.00.

In addition to the back payment you receive, this fee can also be collected from any dependent (i.e. spouse or children) who is entitled to a back payment of benefits (on your record). But, again, the disability attorney or representative can only receive $6000.00 maximum. This is a cumulative total that never exceeds $6000.00 total from all individuals entitled on the record. If the entire fee can be taken from your disability back payment benefits, no fee will be taken from your dependent's back payment.

If the disability representative does not win the case, or your date of entitlement to disability benefits is a future date with no back payment of disability benefits, they are not entitled to charge a fee for their services.

However, this does not mean they cannot charge for incidental or out of pocket expenses that you agreed to pay when you signed your fee agreement. Some representatives expect you to pay these expenses whether you win or lose your disability case, while others only charge them if they win your disability case. For this reason, it is very important to read any fee agreement carefully.

Social Security pays your representative their fee prior to releasing your back payment benefits provided they are an attorney or non-attorney representative who has been authorized for fee withholding. So, in most cases you do not have to worry about taking care of paying the representation fee.

However, if you have a non-attorney representative without fee withholding, you will be responsible for paying their fee out of your back payment and that of any dependent on your record up to the fee maximum of $6000.00. In the end, however, it does not really matter if you pay the attorney or non-attorney, or if Social Security sends the representative their fee since it always comes out of whatever back pay the claimant is owed.

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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