How Do Social Security Disability Lawyers Get Paid?  


You might be considering hiring Social Security Disability lawyers if you are going to file a Social Security Disability (SSD) claim. What holds many claimants back from seeking the legal help that they need is the fear that it will cost them a lot of money.

If you are thinking about completing an application for SSD, an attorney could help you get your claim approved. It is crucial to understand how Social Security Disability lawyers are paid and what their fee structure is so that you can make an informed decision when it comes to getting legal help for SSD claims. You might be surprised to learn that it doesn’t cost as much as you think and that you do not have to pay for services upfront.

See our Social Security Disability Resource Guide for even more information.

No Upfront Payments

It makes sense that most people filing for SSD are not going to have thousands of dollars available to pay an attorney for help. Because of this, most Social Security Disability lawyers do not charge upfront fees or retainers to work on an SSD case. Most SSD attorneys only get paid if they win your claim. This is referred to as a contingency fee. Unlike other types of attorneys, such as those who handle family or estate law, SSD attorneys usually only get paid if you win your SSD case.

When you hire an SSD lawyer to represent your claim, you will be required to sign an agreement regarding how they will get paid. This agreement allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to directly pay your attorney if your claim is approved. The SSA reviews the contract before sending money to ensure that it meets the fee agreement guidelines and that your attorney only receives what they are entitled to receive. The SSA requires these agreements to be contingency-based.

Your lawyer is legally bound not to require any more than 25 percent of the past-due benefits you are owed. In fact, they cannot legally take more than $7,200, no matter how much you are owed in past-due benefits. However, if your case happens to end up in federal district court, they are allowed to charge more depending on your specific agreement. Be sure to review your contract carefully, so you know what you are signing and agreeing to.

Payment to your SSD attorney is limited to your past-due benefits, also known as back pay. If you do not end up receiving any back pay benefits, your attorney will not receive any type of fee. In these cases, however, the lawyer is allowed to petition the SSA to request being paid a fee.

Under nearly all circumstances, it does not cost anything upfront to hire a Social Security Disability attorney. Their fee will come out of your award, if and when you receive it. The SSA will pay them directly, and you will not be hassled with turning the money over to them.

Other Costs

Be aware that most attorneys will ask you to pay a nominal charge for their out-of-pocket costs when you begin your case. These are separate from attorney fees and cover the costs of miscellaneous expenses such as charges for obtaining medical and work records. In most cases, these costs are under $400. This does not include any required medical examinations, as you would generally pay for them directly on your own.

Is Hiring an SSD Lawyer Worth the Cost?

While $7,200 or 25 percent of your back pay may initially seem like a lot of money, when you compare it with receiving no payment at all if you lose your claim, your perspective might change. Unless your case is very straightforward, SSD claims are difficult to win. You must be able to show the SSA that you are not able to perform your previous work duties or other types of work due to your physical or mental disability.

This requires a lengthy and complicated application with several different pieces of documentation. It also requires an understanding and experience with the SSA and what types of claims they usually approve.

Some surveys show that hiring Social Security Disability lawyers nearly doubles the SSD applicant’s chances of having their application approved. When a claimant hires an attorney at some point during their claim, whether it be to represent them only at the appeal hearing or right from the start with their application, surveys reveal that 60 percent were approved for benefits compared to the 34 percent who handled their case on their own.

[What about hiring a non-attorney representative? You might be surprised to learn that hiring a non-attorney representative costs as much as hiring a disability attorney. See our blog post: Should I Hire a Non-Attorney Representative to Handle my Social Security Disability case?]

Does Hiring an Attorney at the Application Stage Help?

When you submit a completed SSD application, the SSA will review it to determine if you meet certain financial and work history requirements. If you do not, you will receive a technical denial. If you do meet these requirements, your application will move to the next step in the process and will be reviewed by a disability examiner. They will look at the medical evidence in your case to determine if it should be approved or denied.

Only a select few applications successfully make it through both steps. About one-third of survey respondents reported that they hired Social Security Disability lawyers to help them fill out and submit their SSD application. Out of those, 28 percent said they were approved for benefits during this first stage. In comparison, only 20 percent of those who did it without the help of an attorney were approved.

Does Legal Representation at the Hearing Stage Help?

If your initial application is denied, it will go through another review. Most cases are also rejected during the second review. You are then entitled to a hearing. Surveys found that having the representation of an SSD lawyer at the hearing stage more than doubled the applicant’s chances of having a successful outcome. Out of those who had an attorney, 50 percent had their claim approved through a hearing while only 23 percent of applicants who represented themselves had their applications approved.

How Social Security Disability Lawyers Can Help

It is evident that hiring an attorney will increase the chances that your claim will be approved at both the initial and application stages. But how exactly do lawyers help your claim? An SSD attorney helps by:

  • Helping you complete and submit an accurate application
  • Gathering the necessary medical evidence to prove your disability
  • Recognizing when medical records need updating, or more evidence is needed
  • Identifying when it would help to have a medical expert testify at the hearing, and knowing where to find appropriate experts
  • Preparing you for questioning at the SSD hearing
  • Anticipating what the administrative law judge may focus on based on their familiarity with local judges who supervise SSD hearings
  • Knowing how to cross-examine a vocational or medical expert in order to strengthen your case

In addition, SSD attorneys can lift the burden of having to fill out the application on your own, find all the required documents, and stay up to date on your case. If you are suffering from an illness or an injury, you may be finding it difficult to simply make it through another day. Having to complete these tasks on your own can be overwhelming. Your attorney will provide you with guidance and answer your questions, making this time a little less stressful for you and your family.

Help from Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyers

If you are thinking about filing a Social Security Disability claim, schedule a consultation with Social Security Disability lawyers who are experienced and passionate about helping others receive the financial assistance they need. Do not let money hold you back from receiving the help you need. With generally no upfront fees, you have nothing to lose by meeting with an attorney and hiring one to take on your SSD case.

To get your SSD consultation scheduled, call Joyce & Bary Law today. You can also use our convenient online contact form. No matter how you contact us, be sure to reach out as soon as possible so that we can get started helping you. SSD claims have deadlines at various stages in the process, and if you miss a deadline, your application will be denied. Don’t let that happen to you.

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