Social Security Disabilty Lawyer’s Fees

Attorneys who represent Social Security disability claimants generally do so under a “contingency fee agreement.” That is, the client does not pay the attorney unless and until the case is resolved and Social Security benefits have been awarded. A representative who wants to charge or collect a fee from a claimant for services provided in any proceeding before the Social Security Administration (SSA) under the Social Security Act (the Act), must first obtain SSAs authorization. To do so, a representative must use one of two mutually exclusive fee authorization processes: the fee agreement process or the fee petition process. Under the fee agreement process, an attorney can collect no more than 25% of of back benefits recovered, or $5,300, whichever is less. If the attorney is unsuccessful in obtaining benefits, there is no charge.

Fee Agreement Process Before SSA decides the claim, the representative or the claimant may file a fee agreement. Generally, SSA will approve an agreement (under 206(a)(2)(A) of the Act) if the other statutory conditions are met and no exceptions apply. If SSA approves the fee agreement and no one requests administrative review, the fee specified in the agreement is the maximum fee the representative may charge and collect.

Fee Petition Process After the representatives services in the case have ended, he or she may petition for a fee. SSA reviews the fee petition and authorizes a “reasonable” fee (under 206(a)(1) of the Act) for the specific services provided.

A fee agreement is a written statement signed by the claimant and his or her appointed representative specifying the fee the representative expects to charge and collect, and the claimant expects to pay, for services the representative provides in pursuing the claimants benefit rights in proceedings before the Social Security Administration (SSA). For SSA to approve a fee agreement, the representative must submit it before the date of the first favorable determination or decision SSA makes on a claim after the representatives appointment. If the representative does not submit a fee agreement by that date, SSA assumes the representative either will file a fee petition or waive a fee.

If the representative submits a fee agreement before the date SSA makes a favorable decision, SSA will approve the fee agreement at the time of the favorable decision if the statutory conditions for approval are met and no exceptions to the fee agreement process apply. Once SSA approves the fee agreement, the fee specified in the agreement is the maximum fee the representative may charge and collect for all services in the claim.

A fee petition is a written statement signed by a claimants representative requesting the fee the representative wants to charge and collect for services he or she provided in pursuing the claimants benefit rights in proceedings before the Social Security Administration (SSA).

SSA presumes that the representative will either file a fee petition or waive his or her fee if the representative does not file a fee agreement before the date SSA makes the first favorable determination or decision. A representative who elects to use the fee petition process generally files the petition after his or her services in the case have ended. Based on this petition, SSA will authorize a reasonable fee for the specific services provided.

Posted by: Marilyn D. Moye on