What Is a Social Security Disability Attorney?

Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be confusing and overwhelming. Hiring a Social Security disability attorney can make the process easier and much less stressful. An attorney guides you through the process and helps you avoid mistakes that could result in denials and unnecessary delays in receiving your Social Security disability benefits. 

What Does a Social Security Disability Attorney Do?

  • Conduct Initial Review of Your Disability Claim
  • Explain the Steps Involved in a Social Security Disability Claim
  • Review Your Disability Application
  • Collect and Organize Medical Evidence
  • Collect and Organize Other Evidence
  • Communicate with the Social Security Administration
  • File Social Security Disability Appeals
  • Help Prepare You for Disability Hearings
  • Represent You at Disability Hearings

Hiring a Social Security disability lawyer has many benefits. You have access to experienced legal advice. You also have someone to provide support and guidance when you become frustrated or overwhelmed by the process of obtaining SSI benefits or SSDI benefits. If your disability insurance benefits are denied, you have someone in your corner who is familiar with your disability case to handle the appeal process.

How Much Does a Social Security Disability Attorney Get Paid?

Paying to hire a Social Security disability lawyer may prevent some people from seeking legal advice from an attorney specializing in Social Security disability. However, once people learn about how an attorney for Social Security disability is paid, they realize that they can afford to hire a Social Security disability attorney to help them with their claim for disability benefits. 

In most cases, your Social Security disability lawyer is paid by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Typically, people who hire an attorney for Social Security disability do not pay any money out of pocket for Social Security disability attorney fees.

When you hire an attorney for Social Security disability benefits, you sign a retainer agreement with the lawyer. The retainer agreement gives the SSA permission to pay your attorney for representing you regarding a Social Security disability claim from your SSDI benefits back pay.

Back pay is the amount of SSI or SSDI benefits that you are entitled to receive from the date you became disabled through the date your disability benefits were approved. In most cases, the date for your back pay begins on the date you filed your initial claim for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance.

What Is the Maximum Attorney Fee For Social Security Disability?

The SSA must approve retainer agreements. The SSA sets attorney fee limits. The retainer agreements must also be based on a contingency fee. If you do not receive any money for your disability claim, you do not owe any attorney fee.

The maximum attorney fee for Social Security disability claims is 25 percent of your back pay up to a maximum of $6,000. 

When Does My Social Security Disability Attorney Receive Payment for Fees?

In most cases, the SSA deducts the entire Social Security disability attorney fee from your first disability check. Your first SSI or SSDI check is your back pay, so the check is generally large enough to cover the attorney fee owed to your Social Security disability lawyer. Your Social Security Award Letter breaks down how back pay is calculated and how the attorney fee for your Social Security disability lawyer was calculated.

How Long After Your Attorney Is Paid Do You Get Your Back Pay For Social Security Disability?

The SSA usually sends your SSDI back pay at the same time it sends your Social Security disability attorney his portion of your back pay for his attorney fee. The payments may be made the same day or within just a few days of each other. Unless there is an issue with your case, there should not be a delay in receiving your disability benefits once they are approved.

Can My Disability Lawyer Request More Money For Attorney Fees?

In some cases, the SSA permits a Social Security disability attorney to petition for additional attorney fees if your case required a lot of extra work or involved an appeal. However, in most cases, it is rare for an attorney to receive more than the maximum attorney fee for Social Security disability claims.

How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Help

There are many things that a Social Security disability lawyer does when representing a client who is applying for benefits through the Social Security system. Some of the things that your attorney may do include, but are not limited to:

Conduct Initial Review of Your Disability Claim

During your initial consultation with a Social Security disability attorney, the attorney performs an initial assessment of your disability claim. The lawyer may review your work history, a summary of your medical evidence, and your initial application if you have already filed a disability claim for SSDI or SSI benefits. The attorney may ask you numerous questions about your disability, previous jobs, and your daily activities. 

The lawyer needs to learn more about you and your case during the initial conference so that he can determine the best strategy moving forward. An experienced attorney understands that he needs to know as much about a disabled individual to provide sound legal advice about a disability case.

Explain the Steps Involved in a Social Security Disability Claim

After learning about you and your Social Security disability case, a Social Security attorney explains important issues such as:

  • Filing a Social Security Disability Claim
  • Social Security Disability Law
  • Social Security Disability Lawyer Fees
  • SSD Benefits
  • Appeals Process
  • Disability Insurance
  • Qualifying Disability
  • Medical Evidence
  • Substantial Gainful Activity
  • Monthly Benefit
  • Back Pay
  • Disability Hearing
  • Insurance Benefits

A skilled attorney explains all of the various issues related to applying for disability insurance benefits in terms that are easy for the general public to understand. The lawyer answers your questions and addresses your concerns to help you decide if you need to hire a Social Security disability lawyer to help you with a disability case. 

Review Your Disability Application

Filing a disability application that contains mistakes or is incomplete can result in a denial of your disability claim or unnecessary delays in the claims process. A Social Security disability attorney reviews your disability application to identify any mistakes or errors that could hurt your case. Many people are denied disability benefits during the initial phase of the application process. The denials may be based on incomplete information, errors on the application, or insufficient documentation. A Social Security disability lawyer can help you avoid this problem.

Collect and Organize Medical Evidence

Medical evidence is one of the crucial elements of a disability claim. Your qualifying disability must be verifiable through medical evidence. Your disability attorney gathers medical evidence and organizes that evidence for the SSA. Even though the SSA may request additional information from your doctors, having the medical evidence available and organized can ensure that you are ready if you must petition for reconsideration if your initial claim is denied. 

Collect and Organize Other Evidence

You may present other evidence to the SSA that supports your claim for Supplemental Security Income or SSDI benefits. Other evidence may include statements from previous employers, friends, family, and social workers. A skilled attorney familiar with the Social Security claims process understands the value of this type of evidence and how to arrange the evidence in a way that presents a strong case for disability benefits. 

Communicate with the Social Security Administration

There are many stages during the process of applying for Social Security benefits that you may worry that the Social Security office is not doing anything regarding your claim. Your SSDI attorney communicates with the Social Security office to ensure that the SSA agent has everything he or she needs to process your claim. If there is a problem, your Social Security lawyer takes care of the problem immediately to avoid delays in your case. 

Throughout your Social Security disability case, your Social Security attorney monitors deadlines. Missing deadlines could hurt your claim. Therefore, disability lawyers pay close attention to these deadlines and submit the required information before the deadline expires.

File Social Security Disability Appeals

Sadly, a large percent of disability claims are denied during the initial application phase. Once a disability claim is denied, you have a very short window to file a request for reconsideration of the initial determination.

There are four levels in the appeals process. If you disagree with the reconsideration determination, you may request a hearing from an administrative law judge (ALJ). The next step would be to request a review by the Appeals Council. Your last step in the appeals process would be to file a lawsuit in federal court.

If you did not hire a Social Security disability attorney for the initial claim, you might want to consider hiring a Social Security disability appeal lawyer. The appeals process for a Social Security benefit can be challenging without an experienced Social Security disability lawyer. You need a disability attorney who understands the appeals process to fight for your right to disability insurance benefits. 

Help Prepare You for Disability Hearings

During some phases of an appeal of a disability case, you may be required to appear at a hearing. The first hearing will likely be before the administrative law judge. Your Social Security disability attorney prepares you for the hearing by:

  • Explaining what to expect at the hearing with an administrative law judge;
  • Reviewing potential questions that the judge may answer;
  • Giving you advice about what to wear in court; 
  • Giving you directions to the hearing location; and,
  • Answering any questions or concerns you might have about the hearing for disability insurance benefits. 

Represent You At Disability Hearings

The hearing is critical. At a hearing, you can present additional medical evidence and witness testimony. Because the hearing is a legal proceeding, it is generally best to have a lawyer for Social Security disability appeal cases to represent you. A skilled attorney familiar with Social Security law understands how to present the evidence in the best possible way to strengthen your claim for SSD benefits.

When Should I Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

You can talk to a Social Security disability lawyer at any stage of your disability claim. 

You may want to consult an attorney for Social Security disability before you file your initial claim. Some people have questions about the information that is requested on the disability application. Other people may feel uneasy about completing the initial claim without legal advice from an attorney specializing in Social Security disability. 

Other people complete and file their application for disability benefits without help from a Social Security disability lawyer. If their claim for SSI or SSDI benefits is denied, they contact a disability lawyer for help.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Social Security Disability Claim?

Social Security disability law does not require you to hire a lawyer for a Social Security disability claim. However, you are free to do so at any time during the process. You can hire a disability attorney to help you apply for Social Security disability, or you can hire a Social Security disability appeal lawyer. The choice is up to you.

Regardless of when you hire an attorney to help with your disability benefits claim, the attorney fee charged for services is the same. A Social Security attorney can only charge 25 percent of your back pay up to $6,000 whether the attorney takes your case from the initial claim or during an appeal.

When Should I Hire an Attorney for Social Security Disability?

There are some elements of a disability case that can make the case more complicated and difficult to win. In those instances, it may be a wise idea to hire an attorney for Social Security disability at the beginning of your case. 

Indications that an applicant or claimant for disability insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income may need a Social Security lawyer include, but are not limited to:

  • You receive a denial of claim letter from the Social Security Administration;
  • Your disability case involves a disabling condition related to a mental health or emotional disorder;
  • You have been denied disability benefits in the past;
  • You may need a Functional Capacity Evaluation to support your disability claim;
  • The SSA requests an Independent Medical Examination (IME);
  • You may need a vocational, psychological, or neuropsychological examination to support your claim;
  • Your disability condition is not listed in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments; or,
  • You need to appeal your disability benefits determination. 

Your disability lawyer offers legal advice regarding information requested on the disability application or by the Social Security Administration. Also, your Social Security disability lawyer can provide guidance when you come up against issues or problems that could hurt your chance of success if not handled in a specific manner. An experienced attorney knows how to handle matters before they become problems that could derail your Social Security disability claim.

How to Choose a Social Security Disability Attorney

If you want to hire a Social Security disability attorney to help you with your disability benefits claim, there are several things to consider:

  • Online Reviews
  • Questions to Ask an Attorney
  • Case Management Load
  • Social Security Disability Attorney Success Rate
  • Social Security Disability Attorney's Fees
  • Services Included in the Retainer Agreement

Online Reviews for Social Security Disability Lawyers

You may want to begin your search for a disability lawyer with an internet search for “Social Security disability attorney & advocacy services near me.” The search should produce a list of disability lawyers. Carefully read the online reviews for each law firm or attorney you consider. You may also want to check attorney review sites such as Avvo or Lawyers.com. However, do not rely on online reviews only. 

Contact the Better Business Bureau and the state bar association to ask about pending and past complaints against the attorney or law firm. You can also check Social Media websites for reviews and ask friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations. 

Questions to Ask an Attorney

When you meet with a Social Security disability attorney, there are several questions you need to ask:

  • How much experience do you have handling Social Security cases involving my disabling condition?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Will you prepare and file all paperwork in my case?
  • Do you contact my doctors and health care providers for records?
  • Do you attend all appointments and hearings with me at the Social Security Administration?
  • When do I receive updates about my case?
  • Can I call with questions or concerns?
  • Do you have clients that can provide recommendations? 

Experience is one of the most important qualities to look for when hiring a disability lawyer. However, you also want to ensure that you feel comfortable with the attorney, and the attorney has excellent communication skills.

Case Management Load

Avoid law firms that are “disability mills.” These law firms handle thousands of cases each year. Many times, you never meet directly with a disability attorney. Make sure that you question any prospective attorney closely about who will handle your case. How many people are on the legal team that manages your case? Can you talk to the attorney directly if you have concerns about your disability case?

Social Security Disability Attorney Success Rate

Ask the attorney about his or her success rate for Social Security disability cases. You should try to hire an attorney who has a high success rate. Do not forget to ask about the success rate for appeals. In many cases, the disability attorney you hire may also need to handle a Social Security disability appeal.

Attorneys’ Fees for Social Security Lawyers

Confirm with your lawyer that your disability case is handled on a contingency fee basis. The fee should be no more than 25% of your back pay, with a maximum fee of $6,000. However, you should also ask the attorney how often the attorney petitions the court for additional attorneys’ fees and how often he files those petitions.

When discussing the attorney fees, ask about the costs of the costs. The costs of the case include, but are not limited to:

  • Copy fees
  • Postage
  • Travel expenses
  • Medical record fees
  • Expert witness fees

Some disability lawyers request a small payment up front for costs throughout the case. Make sure that you discuss costs in addition to attorneys’ fees for a disability attorney. 

Services Included in the Retainer Agreement

Your retainer agreement with a Social Security disability attorney should clearly explain the services that are included and the services that are not included in the fee agreement. It may be a lengthy document, but you need to read the entire document to ensure that you will receive the services you need from the law firm and the legal team.

Should You Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer or Go It Alone?

The answer to that question depends on the unique circumstances of your case. One thing to consider is that having a legal team or law office to help you apply for disability insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income can reduce the stress many people experience when dealing with the Social Security system. The Social Security system can be overwhelming and frustrating when you go it alone.

Furthermore, even though you have a qualifying disability, that does not ensure that your Social Security disability application will be approved. Hiring a skilled attorney for your Social Security disability claim could help you successfully navigate the appeals process.

Keep these key points in mind when deciding whether you need to hire a Social Security disability attorney: 

  • The SSA sets a maximum attorney fee for Social Security disability lawyers.
  • An attorney reviews your disability claim and assists in preparing your disability application and other documents. 
  • An experienced attorney helps you understand Social Security law and the Social Security system.
  • Your disability attorney can help you gather medical evidence and other evidence to support your claim.
  • Disability attorneys handle all communications with the SSA and monitor deadlines in your disability case.
  • Your disability lawyer files the appeals and prepares you for disability hearings.

If you have questions or concerns, talk to an attorney. Most disability lawyers offer free consultations, so it does not cost you anything to talk to a lawyer about your disability claim.