Most standard fee agreements will contain a provision that an attorney may submit a fee petition to Social Security if he or she has performed an unusually large amount of work on your case. These are called "two-tier agreements" because they provide for two different scenarios:
A disability applicant is approved for benefits at or before the administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing level. In this case, the regular fee (the lesser of 25% of back benefits or $6,000) applies.
A disability applicant is denied at the hearing level and the attorney must proceed with further appeals. According to the two-tier agreement, a disability lawyer may choose to submit a fee petition to the court instead of accepting the standard contingency fee.
A fee petition must contain an itemized list of the attorney's activities on the case. Your attorney will send the fee petition to Social Security after your case is complete and will send a copy to you as well.
Social Security will approve the petition only if the fees requested by the attorney are reasonable. Social Security's decision as to whether the requested fee amount is justified will consider the nature and amount of work performed by the attorney, the difficulty of the case, the attorney's knowledge and experience, and the level of appeal the case went to. You can object to or comment on the fee petition if you wish.
How Contingency Fees Relate to Fee Petitions
If your disability claim is ultimately denied, your lawyer can request a fee under the fee petition process. But if you and your attorney signed a contingency fee agreement (where the lawyer agreed to charge a fee only if you won your case), and the agreement was accepted by Social Security, the attorney may not collect a fee under the fee petition process.
Expenses Related to Your Case
The $6,000 cap (or 25% of your backpay limit) does not apply to your attorney's out-of-pocket expenses. Disability attorneys often incur up-front costs in pursuing a disability case, mostly from obtaining medical records and getting opinions from treating doctors. Your lawyer may also charge you for the cost of postage, travel, copying, and long-distance phone calls.
Your attorney will ask you to sign an expense agreement when you hire him or her. Read the expense agreement carefully so that you know what exactly it covers, and whether you will be responsible for repaying the expenses even if you lose your case. In the typical case where a claimant is approved for benefits after a disability hearing, the expenses will usually be no more than a few hundred dollars.
How a Social Security Attorney Can Help
Whether you’re preparing your first SSDI application, submitting your claim for Reconsideration or appealing a rejected claim, you have a greater chance of success with the help of a knowledgeable lawyer.
Attorneys at Kalfus & Nachman PC understand the complex SSDI application process and the information necessary to receive approval while maximizing the financial support you need for your condition. We also have a thorough knowledge of the appeals process and can help you assemble the additional information necessary to bolster your claim if you’ve been denied.
If you live in the Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach or Roanoke, Virginia, areas and need assistance filing your SSDI application or making an appeal, please contact Kalfus & Nachman PC by phone at (855) 880-8163 or through the form on this page to schedule a free consultation.