You are disabled and cannot work, and have either filed a Social Security disability claim , or are thinking about it. When should you call in reinforcements? A legal representative can help you at any stage of the process, but it is important to understand the costs and benefits of hiring one.
How much will it cost me?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued guidelines for how legal representatives should be paid. Most reputable firms adhere to these guidelines through the administrative hearing level of appeal (the fee structure changes if appeal to Federal District Court becomes necessary).
If you are successful, you will receive a back-award of benefits for the period you have been waiting. Your representative’s fee will be 25% of this back-award or $6,000, whichever amount is less. Most representatives will front the costs of your claim (primarily the cost of obtaining copies of your medical records), and will ask you to reimburse those out-of-pocket costs when you receive your back-award. You usually do not have to come up with any money before or during representation – everything is settled at the end when you get your back-award of benefits. If you do not receive a back-award, no fee is owed, but you may still be responsible for reimbursing costs.
So when is the best time to call a Social Security Disability Representative?
The earlier the better. If you have not yet filed a claim and are contemplating the idea, you may want to call a disability lawyer to determine if you may be eligible, and what to expect from the process. Most representatives are more than happy to provide information over the telephone, without charge.
Depending on your particular circumstances, a representative can help file the initial application, or direct you to the SSA office where the application can be filed. In our office we help clients file applications, unless there is an issue that needs to be handled directly by the SSA office. That in-person appointment usually takes 1-2 hours.
Many people who apply for social security disability wait until after their claim has been denied to hire an attorney. About 1/3 of the claims are approved by SSA at the Initial level, without the assistance of a representative. In those cases, not having a representative will save you the cost of a fee.
If you have applied for disability and your claim has been denied, do not despair. Keep in mind that 2/3 of the claims are denied by SSA at the initial level of review. At this point, legal representation is recommended. Not only does legal counsel help with the success of your case it can keep things moving in the right direction to get you the disability benefits you need and deserve. In cases involving a terminal illness or extreme financial issues such as foreclosure, a lawyer can request an “on the record” decision, which is an approval based entirely on the medical record, without the need for a disability hearing.
For more information on social security disability claims please contact the team at Maddox and Laffoon. We are here to listen and help.