How do Disability Lawyers in New York get paid their fees?

If you have a Social Security Disability or SSI disability claim in New York and you have representation, through a disability lawyer or a non-attorney disability representative (many non-attorney reps are former Social Security Administration claims representatives or disability examiners, such as the author of, Tim Moore), that individual will be paid a percentage of your back payment as their fee...provided, of course, that they win your claim.

Important facts about disability representation fees

1. You do not pay an upfront fee when you select a disability representative - Many claimants and potential claimants in New York find themselves concerned about their ability to pay or afford someone to handle their claim. But in the SSD and SSI disability system, a fee can never be charged upfront.

This means that the issue of cost is not a bar to finding assistance and practically any claimant seeking help on a disability case in New York can find representation as long as their claim has merit.

2. The fee for representation is only paid if the case is won - This is because the fee is actually paid out of whatever back payment that a claimant (whose case has been won) is found eligible to receive. If the Social Security Disability or SSI disability case is not won, there is no fee that is owed to the disability lawyer or representative.

Obviously, this gives every disability lawyer or representative in New York a very strong incentive to provide qualified representation and, when appearing before an administrative law judge at a disability hearing, to both properly prepare the case for hearing, and to properly present it.

3. The fee that may be paid to a disability representative or disability lawyer in New York can never exceed a certain maximum. Currently, the maximum fee payment is $6000.

This means that if a claimant is awarded $24,000 in Social Security back pay, the fee that will be paid will be $6000. However, if the claimant is awarded $32,000 in disability back pay, the fee will still only be $6000. The fee that is paid can never exceed the maximum allowed by Congress and the Social Security Administration.

4. The actual payment of the fee is handled by SSA. After a case has been won, a payment processing center will calcuate whatever back pay is owed to the claimant and whatever portion of the back payment is owed to the disability representative or attorney and then forward payment to that individual.

The fact that a claimant is not required to pay the equivalent of a retainer effectively means that any claimant who has a disability claim with merit should not have any difficulty finding representation.

Furthermore, the fact that the fee is paid only in the event that the case is won (usually at the disability hearing level) provides strong incentive for a representative or attorney to assemble a strong case based on Social Security Administrative regulations, rulings, and objective medical evidence that proves the claimant meets the SSA definition of disability.

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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