Lawyers and non-attorney representatives for Social Security Administration (SSA) disability claimants are limited by the SSA to 25% of the past-due benefits, up to a maximum of $6,000. If no back-dated benefits are awarded, your representative will not receive a fee. If a claim requires multiple hearings or an appeal to the Appeals Council or federal court, representatives are sometimes allowed to submit a fee petition to the SSA to request a higher fee.
Fee agreements in all Social Security disability claims are made on a “contingency basis.” In other words, you must be awarded benefits for your representative to get paid. The fee agreement you sign when you hire a representative allows the SSA to pay him or her after your claim is approved. The SSA will make sure the agreement meets federal guidelines and that your representative is paid only what he or she is entitled to receive. Your fee to your representative will be paid out of your award.
Disability Back pay
Once the disability examiner or judge approves your case, the SSA will calculate the amount of back pay you are owed. If you are approved for Retirement Survivors and Disability Insurance (RSDI) disability benefits, then your back pay will include retroactive benefits from the date you are approved back to the date the SSA determined your disability began, to a maximum of 12 months prior to your application date. If you are approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, then your award is calculated from the date you are approved for benefits back to the month after you applied for benefits.
Your representative may be able to get you more back pay by negotiating your disability “onset date.” However, this is something that must be done by your representative at a hearing.
During the course of your claim, your representative must compile evidence, most of which will be in the form of medical records. Medical providers are allowed to charge a small fee for releasing their records. Opinions also may be solicited from medical providers who will support your case, and this can be costly. You are responsible for these charges, which are separate from your representative’s fee. This is still only in the event of a successful outcome.
Your representative will bill you for these out-of-pocket costs after written notification is received informing you that you have won your claim. Your representative can explain the fee agreement to you in greater detail when he or she agrees to represent you in your disability claim.