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How do Social Security Disability attorneys get paid for representing you in your disability claim?

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Learn how Social Security lawyers get paid only if your disability claim is approved and learn about the maximum fees your attorney can receive for winning your case.

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Disability Attorneys Are Paid
Only If You Win

Social Security Disability attorneys who represent disability claimants get paid on a contingency basis. This means that they are paid for their services only if you are awarded benefits. If an attorney accepts your case on a contingency basis, he or she believes that you have a reasonable chance of being approved for disability benefits.

Maximum Fee for Attorney Services

When you hire a Social Security attorney, you will sign a Social Security representation form and fee agreement with your attorney, who then, in turn, reports that information to the Social Security Administration. Your attorney can charge a fee up to 25% of your back pay or $6,000.00, whichever is less. Your attorney does not receive a fee from your ongoing monthly checks. Usually Social Security sends your attorney the approved fee at the same time as they send you the back pay.

Out-of-pocket Attorney Expenses

Typically, whether you are awarded benefits or you are denied after exhausting all appeals, you will be responsible for reimbursing your attorney directly for out-of-pocket expenses, such as court filing fees and costs to obtain medical records and reports. These charges are usually minimal.

The Benefits of Attorney Representation

For a discussion of some of the ways disability attorneys can help with your Social Security Disability claim, please see our articles “How Can a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help Me Get Social Security Benefits?” and “Do I Really Have to Hire a Lawyer for My Social Security Disability Claim?”

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34 Comments

  1. Abdulsalam mohamed says:

    I get approve for ssd.
    But my ? Please is. I have five kids
    The are us sitizen but they are out of USA
    Did I have too bring them all for their back pay
    Or bring one of them only then he ,ll get all the amount
    Of the back pay.
    Because Iam real sick I can’t bring them all now to USA
    Until there mom get the visa to come to USA then my rest of kids
    ‘ll come with her
    Thank u so much

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Abdulsalam,

      One comment in general before I answer your questions: Dependent benefits for children are usually paid to the parent who has physical custody of the children, in this case, your wife.

      Factors that are considered in determining whether payments can be made abroad include citizenship, country of residence, and length of stay. Because there are so many factors, you will need to talk with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to get a correct answer to whether the payments can be sent abroad. (You may also want to clarify whether, if benefits can’t be paid, will back benefits be paid later when the children are in the U.S. or will benefits be payable only for months they are actually in the U.S.)

      As far as bringing one child to the U.S. and that child receiving the amount payable for all the children, I doubt it. It is more likely that SSA would pay one-fifth of the children’s benefits to you for the one child in the U.S.

      The way to find out for sure whether the children can be paid while out of the U.S. is to get a written determination from SSA. If you listed your children as dependents when you applied for Social Security, then your application was also an application for the children. If you did not, you need to file an application for them. Either way, be sure you get a written determination about whether payments can be made while they are abroad. That way, you will get a written decision as to whether payment can be made and the decision will include appeal rights, which is important should you think an error has been made.

      One final note: There is a difference between “eligible” and “payable.” If your children qualify as “children” under Social Security law, then they are eligible (assuming your benefit is high enough to pay a dependent benefit), but benefits might not be payable while the children are out of the country in circumstances that do not allow payment under the law.

      In any event, I hope your wife gets her visa soon.

      Kay

  2. richard a. harris says:

    I need a backpay lawyer p help me get my pay for when I first applied for Susie.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Richard,

      Disability Advisor can put you in touch with a good Social Security attorney. Just call 1-888-393-1010.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  3. nina rouse says:

    hi i still have not recieved my disability back pay but my lawyer has already recieved their fee as well i recieved a letter from social security that my lawyer would only be recieving $348 and i would recieve $1,234.00 but my lawyer recieved over $3,000 and i still haven’t recieved anything plus my lawyer will not return my phone calls and when i have spoken with them they say they have nothing to do with it after they have won the case what should i do i have been waiting for back pay for well over a year and my lawyers have been paid for atleast 3 months now what should i do

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Nina,

      I suggest going to your Social Security office (with water and a snack because you may have to wait). Ask to see either your claims representative or a supervisor. Take your letter that shows your attorney will get $348 and explain that the attorney got $3,000+ and you have gotten nothing so far. The $3,000 may be explainable if you applied for both Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The attorney is eligible for up to 25% of back pay for both SSD and SSI. The letter you got may refer to only one of those benefits. Of course, none of this explains why the attorney has been paid and you haven’t. You might ask if they can take the actions necessary to get at least your SSI back pay sent while you wait as that payment is triggered locally. Both benefits have been calculated; otherwise, they would not have been able to pay the attorney.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  4. Amanda Crane says:

    i have a hearing tomorrow. i owe almost 8000 do they take all of it… also i dont care if they do was just wounding

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Amanda,

      Please provide more information so that I can answer your question. To whom do you owe $8,000?

      Thank you.

      Kay

  5. Marcus holland says:

    My children just received their back pay and their representative ( which they never signed or nor did my lawyer ever help to get them anything, because I was the one who spent countless hours on the phone and in person signing them up ) got almost 3800 of their money. Is that right? Is that less that comes out of my back pay, because I was told he still gets 6000 of mine? Can I appeal and win their money back considering the lawyer not once made a call on their behalf? Please help because 10 grand to a lawyer seems like way to much!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Marcus,

      Any benefits paid for your children are paid in addition to your benefit; their benefits do not reduce yours. It is correct that all money for the children be paid to the adult payee who is primarily responsible for them. This person is often the parent with whom they live.

      I cannot give you legal advice about the attorney fees. However, I suggest that you review the representation agreement you signed with your attorney to see whether it includes dependent benefits. If it does, then it is likely that the attorney fees paid from your children’s benefits are correctly paid.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  6. James Martinez says:

    I hired a SSDI attorney on a contigent basis.that if i win my case he gets paid with 25% of my backpay I won my case but had no back pay.now he is asking me for $2000 for his fee does social security allow him to do that he has sent a letter for approval to social security will they approve that since there is no back pay for him to get paid

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear James,

      Usually, claims have pended long enough for attorney fees to be withheld from back pay. Your claim is among the very small percentage that has not. You are responsible for paying your attorney for his time. The Social Security Administration will review his request and decide whether the amount he has requested is appropriate for the services performed. I suggest that you review the attorney’s request and if you think the amount represents more time than he spent on your claim, submit a written statement with your reasons for thinking his invoice is too high and the amount that you think would be appropriate. You need to do this quickly so your statement can be considered in their review.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  7. Josh S Kennedy says:

    I assume that getting approved for SSDI benefits present a special challenge for people with behavioral health diagnoses. How important would it be to hire an atty or specialist with expertise in this particular medical field, and how would I go about finding one?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Josh,

      Please clarify your question. By specialist do you mean a medical specialist or an attorney who is experienced in mental health disability claims?

      Thank you.

      Kay

  8. Princess says:

    I won my case– got letter from judge — but was wondering if Social Security ever reimburses for attorney fees? Everyone said I needed an attorney and it seems like the system has created a whole “spread the wealth system with these attorneys” — I get it this is the system and how it is set up however since they have wasted my time , been disorganized, and basically this is the most dysfunctional system I have ever been exposed to – why not pay for my attorney ? Not my fault they took over a year to review my case and my life has been a mess – seems like there should be some payment for the pain they have caused me ?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Princess,

      You received the attorney’s service, not the Social Security Administration, so you are responsible for paying for the services.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  9. Shellie says:

    Hi! I received my backpay today and my daughters part was not included. I called SS and was told that her benefits were not signed up for! Not sure how that happened. My question is when I do receive her backpay will my attorney get part of hers also? Even though it is a completely separate transaction?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Shellie,

      If the representation agreement you signed with the attorney covers dependents benefits and he or she has not already received the maximum $6,000 in fees, attorney fees will be withheld from your daughter’s benefits also. For example, if $4,000 was paid to the attorney from your benefits, 25% up to $2,000 could be withheld from your daughter’s benefits.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  10. philip patrick says:

    I had an appearance with attorney in court last week before a judge said he would render a decision within 3/6 months! My question is I have been applying for 2.5 yrs and now its going to take another several months for a answer, how do they expect us to survive with no income for 3 yrs . I do get ebt and it does help but not with everyday bills ie. electric, water, gas, ect ? I was lucky to have a savings but now is depleted!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Philip,

      The time period that the judge quoted is very long. It seems that decision often go to three months, but six months is less common. I do not know whether there are big backlogs or the judge wants to gather more information from your doctors. For interim assistance, you might check with local non-profits, county or state human services departments, and your utility companies to see whether you can get energy assistance to help pay your heating bill.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  11. philip patrick says:

    On the third attempt how long does it take for the ALJ to make their decision ?

  12. Lidia Rodriguez says:

    I have a question my uncle who doesn’t write or read has a attorney and ask me to help the question is when we ask him how much will my uncle gets he saids i don’t know. We donot know how much” he “is going to get . My uncle is suing the companie he worked at for more then 15 yrs. Doing Dry sandblasting . We think it’s odd that he doesn’t know. What you think????? Thanks lidia

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Lidia,

      I am not an expert on civil litigation, but it is reasonable that your uncle’s attorney would not know whether your uncle would win his suit and, if so, how much would be awarded.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  13. Annmarie Abdelmonem says:

    I applied for SSDI and its been about 6 months now I believe. I owe back support for child support which I pay $160 a month. But owe like $6000. Will they take out the 160 a month like on my unemployment every month? My application is still pending because I go to hospital for treatment everyday and have been having surgeries. But my main complaint is my cronic back pain. I take so much pain meds that I can’t function doing my job. Plus I spend 2 hours everyday ina hyperbaric chamber.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Annmarie,

      Yes, if you are approved for Social Security Disability (SSDI) and responsible for child support, Social Security will withhold the amount of support ordered from your Social Security ongoing benefits; however, there are limits to the percentage that can be withheld. They will also withhold retroactive SSDI benefits to collect as much as they can of the back child support.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  14. derek says:

    My mother was denied a year os so ago for a lack of adequate work credits. Since then, her medical condition has changed somewhat – she’s had a leg amputated, and the other one’s not too far from the same.

    Does a change in one’s medical situation (for the worse) impact the rejection based upon work credits?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Derek,

      Your mother’s denial for lack of work credits was a denial for Social Security Disability (SSDI) and was not related to her medical condition. If she has not worked since then, she still would not have enough work credits to get SSDI.

      If her income and assets (or hers and her husband’s if she is married living with her husband) are below the SSI limit, she could receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The SSI program does not require work credits and is payable to individuals with limited income and assets. She can get an appointment to apply by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  15. Pat Greenwald says:

    I have a question that can’t be answered with a Google search — and I don’t know if I should call my lawyer or Social Security without first asking someone else (like yourself).

    I was recently awarded both SSI and SSDI, with the SSDI monthly benefit being twice as high than the amount for SSI.

    I received a lump sum payment before receiving two different letters (it doesn’t say “award letter” anywhere) — one for SSDI and one for SSI — each with pro-rated monthly amounts for each year from the onset date to the present. But no TOTALS were listed on either letter (I had to calculate them myself) — nor was the amount of the lawyer fees paid listed.

    I assumed (purely for clerical and accounting purposes) that the amount total for SSI would be subtracted for the amount calculated for SSDI — but that the total award/lump sum payment would be the same.

    The one lump-sum payment that was direct deposited into my bank account (that I set up ONLY for Social Security) is much less than I expected. According to both letters from Social Security (MINUS the 5 month waiting period) the lump sum payment should have been several thousand dollars more (even minus 25% for legal fees if my lawyer got the maximum allowed after appealing the $6,000 cap).

    Will I be getting another lump sum payment for the difference, and will I get a letter from SSA stating the legal fees paid to my lawyer?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Pat,

      You have done a lot of research and have a generally good idea of how the calculations work, except for one point. One benefit’s back pay will be paid in its entirety and the second one will be reduced for the back pay from the first for overlapping months. Usually SSI is paid first, and the reduced Social Security back pay is paid second. If that usual order has been followed, it is possible that the direct deposit was actually SSI. Although you gave your bank account number related to your Social Security claim, it is quite possible that Social Security would use it for both.

      I suggest that you call 1-800-772-1213 to ask Social Security which program paid the direct deposit. If you give them the amount, they should be able to easily clarify it. (Bring your knitting to the phone because you will be on hold a long time.)

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  16. Kerri says:

    We obtained an attorney for my husband’s disability and after
    3 years of going through the process, he was awarded his back pay.
    We signed an agreement with the attorney for their fee of 25% or $6000. We were told $6000 would be the most they would take. Because our 2 children are now over age of 18, their back pay came to them in their name. The attorney was paid the $6000 from my husbands benefits and also over $8000 ($4000 for each child). Please advise as there was never any discussion of them receiving separate money from our children.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Kerri,

      Look at the representation agreement that your husband signed. If it includes a fee for obtaining dependent benefits, then the attorney is entitled to the fees. If dependent benefits are not mentioned, you might take a copy of the agreement to the Social Security Administration as an error may have occurred.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

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