An applicant for disability benefits has a right to representation by an attorney or another qualified person. Claimants may choose one or more representatives but must inform the Social Security Administration (SSA) in writing as soon as possible once a choice has been made.
Once a representative is appointed, he or she may act on a claimant’s behalf before the SSA by performing various functions including assisting applicants throughout the application process and accompanying, or appearing on behalf of, a claimant at any interview, conference or hearing with the SSA. So how does a representative get paid? After all, many applicants may not have the funds or resources to pay for competent representation.
Typically, a representative may not charge or collect a fee from an applicant without written approval by the SSA. Funds may be paid in advance to a representative provided they are held in a trust account. Applicants must pay for the out-of-pocket expenses, such as costs for medical reports, advanced by a representative. Unlike fees, a representative may charge for these out-of-pocket expenses without the approval of the SSA.
A representative first must file some document evidencing the fee arrangement such as a fee agreement or a fee petition with the SSA. A representative is limited to charging fees up to the amount allowed by Social Security. A representative who charges or collects a fee without SSA approval, or charges or collects more than allowed, may be suspended or disqualified from further representation before the SSA, as well as criminally prosecuted.
A written fee agreement between an applicant and representative may be approved by the SSA any time before a decision regarding a claim is rendered. Notice of decisions is, of course, given to applicants and their reps, as well the underlying reasons for such decision. Most valid, approved fee arrangements are signed by both a claimant and representative; pertain to a claim that has been approved while an individual is receiving past-due benefits; and provide for a fee that is not more than 25 percent of past-due benefits, or $6,000, whichever is less.
A fee petition may be submitted for approval after a representative’s work on a claim is completed. These petitions usually include descriptions in detail of the amount of time spent on each service provided by a representative. Applicants are entitled to copies of the fee petition and any attachments.
The Sullivan Law Office provides assistance in ensuring that all applicants and recipients receive all of the benefits to which they are entitled in all types of disability cases. These include Social Security Disability, long-term disability, short-term disability, state retirement and workers’ compensation. Contact the Sullivan Law Office today. We offer free consultations, so you have absolutely nothing to lose! We look forward to hearing from you. Call 888-587-0228 or visit us online.