Social Security Disability benefits are provided under the Social Security statute. The statute tells us what you need to prove in order to obtain benefits. It also regulates how attorneys can be paid for their work representing disability claimants.
The most important thing you should know is that an attorney representing a disability claimant cannot charge a fee unless the attorney is successful in obtaining benefits. If the attorney does not get a favorable decision for the client, there is no attorney fee. If the attorney is successful, then the fee comes out of retroactive benefits. "Retroactive benefits" are those benefits that have built up from the date your disability started up until the date of the favorable decision. The attorney is entitled to no more than 25% of the retroactive benefits, but to no case, can the fee exceed $6000.00. In other words, the fee is the lesser amount of 25% of retroactive benefits, or $6000.00.
For example, if your retroactive benefits total $4000.00, then the attorney fee would be 25% of that amount, which equals $1000.00. However, if your retroactive benefits were $40,000.00, then the attorney fee would be $6000.00.
The $6000.00 limit on attorney fees applies to cases at the initial appeal, known as "reconsideration," and at the hearings level. The hearings office is known as the Office of Adjudication and Disability Review, or "ODAR." Some attorneys handle cases at Federal Court, and a different statute may govern how attorneys are paid for their fees. Nonetheless, the fees will still come out of retroactive benefits.
The statute also allows attorneys to charge an hourly rate, based on their time involved in the case. Again, this fee is subject to the 25% or $6000.00 rule.
When a Social Security Disability claimant hires us, we review the written fee agreement with our client, and then submit that fee agreement to Social Security. When we win a case, the Administrative Law Judge approves the fee agreement.
If you are curious about whether an attorney can help you on your Social Security Disability claim, call us at 503-325-8600. We have over two decades of experience working with disability claimants, and can let you know where you stand with your case.