Social Security Disability Insurance
Written by: Bruce L. Weider | 8.30.2023

Navigating Social Security Attorney Fees: How To Choose the Right Option

When preparing to file a claim for Social Security benefits––such as Social Security Insurance (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)––many applicants wonder about the costs of hiring an attorney to provide legal guidance throughout the process. One important fact that applicants may find reassuring is that Social Security attorney fees are regulated by the federal government. In addition, attorneys can only charge clients if they help them win their cases. If benefits are not awarded, the client owes no attorney fees. If you are seeking legal guidance for a Social Security claim, Michigan Social Security lawyer Bruce L. Weider may be able to guide you through the process and help you secure the benefits you deserve. Contact our office today at (734) 485-0535 to learn more in a free consultation.

What Is the Most an Attorney Can Charge for Disability?

As of November 30, 2022, a Social Security attorney may only charge their client 25% of the total benefit amount awarded or $7,200, whichever amount is lower. Consequently, a claimant who is awarded $20,000 in benefits would owe, at maximum, attorney of $5,000. For an award of $100,000, however, the fee would be capped at $7,200.

Lawyers specializing in disability cases commonly operate under a contingency fee structure. This approach allows them to accept a case and provide legal support throughout the disability benefits application or appeal process without requiring immediate payment. Instead, these legal costs are deferred until the Social Security Administration (SSA) approves the benefits application. Following the approval of disability benefits, there is often a significant delay in the distribution of payments. This delay typically results in sizable backpay owed to the claimant. The attorney’s fees are drawn from this backpay portion. Thus, this contingency fee model helps to ensure that claimants can receive professional legal assistance without needing to pay their attorney until they have received their Social Security funds.

What Is an SSA Fee Agreement?

A fee agreement is a formally written document that is signed by both the person applying for benefits (the claimant) and the claimant's attorney. This agreement establishes charges for services rendered in dealings with the Social Security Administration (SSA). This comprehensive document meticulously delineates the fee arrangement agreed upon by all parties involved. The attorney is obligated to submit the fee agreement before the date of the first favorable determination or decision. Failure to submit a fee agreement by this date signifies the representative's intention to either file a fee petition or forego the fee.

In cases where the attorney submits a fee agreement before a favorable decision is made, and assuming all statutory conditions for approval are satisfied and no exceptions to the fee agreement process are applicable, the fee agreement will be approved concurrently with the favorable decision. Following approval of the fee agreement, the fee specified therein represents the maximum fee that the attorney can charge and collect for all services connected with the claim. If you have questions about Social Security attorney fees or fee agreements, you can learn more by contacting Michigan Social Security lawyer Bruce L. Weider.

What Information Should Be Included in a Fee Agreement?

The Social Security Act does not mandate any particular wording to be included in a fee agreement. However, it does establish certain limitations on the fees that representatives can charge and collect. Representatives are permitted and may even be expected to draft their own fee agreements, but these will be approved only if they adhere to the stipulated statutory conditions and if no exceptions apply.

Given that a fee agreement serves as a legally binding contract between a representative and their client, each fee agreement possesses its own unique characteristics and can significantly vary in length, content, and complexity. Even though claimants and their representatives have the discretion to submit their preferred, signed fee agreement for approval, the Social Security Administration has released a template form, the SSA-1693, to facilitate this process.

Do I Need an Attorney To File for Social Security?

While you are free to apply for Social Security benefits on your own, the application process can be complex and taxing. A significant number of initial applications for disability benefits are declined by the Social Security Administration (SSA), often putting applicants to the necessity of contesting these decision through the appeals process. According to the SSA’s internal data, approximately 67 percent of claims are denied on the first attempt. Social Security attorneys can provide assistance at any juncture of an application. However, in the event of a denial, securing a favorable outcome in an appeal can become increasingly challenging without legal counsel.

Experience

Concerned applicants may benefit from enlisting the services of a lawyer as early as possible. A lawyer specializing in this practice area will likely have extensive experience with disability applications, as well as a comprehensive understanding of the SSA's established criteria for determining the validity of an application that can be extremely useful in ensuring that an application is well-documented.

Documentation

A considerable number of claimants have their initial Social Security disability applications denied due to a lack of substantial evidence to corroborate the claimant's assertion of a severe disability that precludes them from gainful employment for a minimum of 12 months. A disability lawyer can provide invaluable assistance by reviewing the available documentation before the claimant files their application with the SSA, and offering informed insights regarding the probability of a successful application.

What Is the Process of Filing a Social Security Claim?

There are generally two or three stages to filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits, depending on whether the initial claim is approved:

  1. Submit an application: The claimant must fill out an application form and submit medical documentation of their disability. An attorney can help ensure that all forms and documentation are submitted correctly.
  2. SSA reviews application: The Social Security Administration reviews the application and decides whether or not to approve benefits. This process can take three to five months.
  3. Claimants can appeal denied claims: If the SSA denies the claim, the claimant has the right to request a reconsideration and file an appeal.

Learn More From an Experienced Michigan Social Security Attorney

The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits can be complex. Legal expertise from an experienced attorney such as Bruce L. Weider can significantly streamline this procedure, ensuring a higher likelihood of a successful outcome. The regulated contingency fee structure for Social Security attorney fees offers clients professional support without upfront costs. For further questions about Social Security attorney fees or a free consultation, contact Bruce L. Weider, PC today at (734) 485-0535.

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