Social security disability lawyer fees don’t cost you anything until you win your case. SSDI lawyers are required by law to work on a contingency basis. This means that they don’t get paid until you get paid. Plus, social security disability lawyers’ fees are capped by federal rules, so your attorney can’t overcharge you.
If a social security disability lawyer attempts to charge you hourly instead of on a contingency basis, we recommend finding a new attorney.
What Are the Maximum Attorney Fees in SSDI and SSI Cases?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) sets limitations on how much SSDI lawyers can charge. Fees are limited to 25% of your past-due benefits (“back pay”). For example, if you are entitled to $12,000 in back pay, your attorney will receive no more than $3,000. Additionally, fee awards cannot exceed $6,000, no matter how much your back pay is. So if you were entitled to $30,000 in back pay, your attorney would end up getting less than 25%.
When you hire an SSDI attorney, you will usually sign a fee agreement outlining the exact amount of the fee. The SSA will then review the fee agreement to make sure it follows the rules.
How Are SSDI Attorney Fees Calculated and Paid?
Notice how we said fees are calculated based on your SSDI back pay? That is an SSA rule too. It means that your social security disability lawyer’s fees can’t be paid out of your ongoing benefits. If you don’t get back pay, your attorney doesn’t get paid.
If your case involves a lot of extra work, like an appeal, it is possible for your attorney to petition the SSA for a higher fee. This is pretty rare with a standard disability claim, though.
When Do I Pay My SSDI Attorney Fee?
The short answer is, you don’t. At least not directly. The SSA will take care of paying your attorney for you after it approves the claim.
In assessing your claim, the SSA will determine the date your disability began. For SSI claims, the date can be as early as the month after you filed your application. For SSDI claims, the date can be up to twelve months before the date you filed your application.
The SSA will send your back pay in your first disability check. Your back pay will include everything you’re owed from the date your disability began to the date your claim is approved. The SSA will subtract the SSDI attorney fee from your check before they send it to you.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Help with My SSDI or SSI Claim?
SSDI and SSI applications can be complicated. There are long applications to fill out, evidence to gather, and deadlines to meet.
The SSA denies a large percentage of SSDI and SSI claims. But a survey conducted by Martindale-Nolo in 2017 revealed that having a lawyer nearly doubles the likelihood of having your application approved. The difference is even bigger for SSI applicants. SSI applicants are almost three times as likely to be approved with a lawyer at their side.
Having a lawyer makes the biggest difference when you have to go to a hearing. It is possible to have your application approved without a hearing, but most written applications are initially denied. When an application is denied, the next step is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. This is where having a lawyer makes a big difference. Martindale-Nolo found that applicants who have lawyers win their hearings more than twice as often as those who don’t.
The cost of a lawyer is small compared to the ongoing benefits you receive as an SSDI or SSI recipient. The average monthly SSDI benefit awarded in November 2019 was $1,390.60. Monthly SSI benefits for 2020 are set at $783/mo for eligible individuals and $1,175/mo for eligible couples. That’s a lot of benefits on the table. $6,000 or less in attorney fees is a pretty small fraction of that in the long run. And according to Martindale-Nolo, most people actually end up paying less than the $6,000 cap.
Read more about How a disability claims advocate can increase your maximum payout.
How Do I Start My SSDI or SSI Application?
Get started with your SSDI or SSI claim by contacting GAR Disability Advocates at 201-308-9520 or online. Our experienced and knowledgeable advocates can provide you with a free evaluation of your claim. We specialize in SSDI and SSI benefits claims, and we will work hard to get you the benefits you deserve.