Getting a Social Security Disability Attorney
The Social Security Administration (SSA) gives out Social Security Disability benefits to millions of disabled Americans every year. However, about 70% of disability claims are denied during initial stages of application due to various reasons. Disability applicants whose SSDI claims are denied can file for an appeal or seek the help of a Social Security Disability attorney.
Applicants who file for an appeal with proper representation may have greater chances of getting approved with their claim. A Social Security Disability attorney may also provide valuable assistance for those who are filing a claim for the first time.
Where to find a Social Security Disability Attorney?
You can find a disability representative or attorney in various listings, such as the Internet, The Yellow Pages, legal aid clinics, and referral services in your state’s bar association. The Disability Benefits Help website also has a list of disability lawyers you can hire per state.
When looking for a disability attorney, it is important to know his/her profile, experience in handling similar cases of disability claims, education and fees. The best thing to do is to ask questions and gather information about the lawyer’s experience in winning disability claims.
Lawyers and Non-Lawyer Representatives
Representation during initial application stage and during the first two levels of appeal can be sought from both lawyers and non-lawyers. Many non-lawyers are former disability examiners and disability claims representatives. But if you are appealing to the Appeals Council, you will want to enlist the help of an attorney.
How much should I pay for an attorney?
Disability lawyers’ fees are typically max of 25% of the past-due disability benefits awarded to you, or up to $6,000 max. Your disability attorney will only be paid out of you past-due benefits or your backpay, which means if you are not awarded any past-due benefits, your lawyer will not receive a fee. The SSA will deduct the entire attorney’s fee from your disability paycheck. Typically, lawyers are allowed to file a petition to Social Security requesting for higher fees.
While disability attorneys shouldn’t cost you anything, considering they get paid out of your disability backpay, there are some attorneys who might request you to pay an amount to for their costs at the start of your case.
Contingency Fee Agreement
When you hire the services of a disability attorney or advocate, you will be asked to sign an agreement indicating that SSA can pay the attorney if your claimed is approved. Social Security will review the fee agreement to ensure that your attorney will only be paid the amount he or she is entitled to receive. Contingency means that your lawyer will only be paid if you win the case and your claim is approved.
During representation, your lawyer may have to request your medical records, medical or psychological examinations, school records and employment documents, and they typically have corresponding fees. You will have to exclude these costs from your attorney’s fee of 25% of your backdated benefits and pay for them yourself.
There may be times when your attorney will ask for you to pay for these documents in advance. This is acceptable, as long as your lawyer holds your payment in trust until it is required to pay for the items. The best thing to do is to ask your attorney beforehand if you will be charged for these additional costs and ask in advance what other expenses you might need to expect.