If you have a disability and can no longer work because of its severity you may be considering applying for disability benefits.
One worry that many applicants have is how much it is going to cost to file for disability, especially if they have reduced earnings.
Fortunately, the actual application itself is free. If you decide to use an attorney, which isn’t compulsory, then there will be legal fees to pay, but usually these don’t have to be paid unless your application is successful.
There are three ways to file for disability. You can do it online, by phone or go to your nearest SSA office and complete the application there.
Working With an Attorney or Advocate
Filing a disability benefit claim can take time and can be a challenging experience. Many applications are denied initially, which means having to appeal the decision.
You may have a better chance of obtaining a favorable decision if you work with a disability attorney, and you may be more likely to need one if you have to appeal a denied benefits.
If you do decide to work with an attorney, you may find that most disability attorneys will work on a contingency fee basis. You will need to discuss how this works with the attorney beforehand.
You make an attorney fee agreement with the attorney which is regulated by the SSA. The attorney typically charges up to 25% of the back pay you receive from the SSA if a benefit is awarded.
This is the maximum that can be charged and there is also a cap of $6,000 if the back pay is substantial. This attorney fee is only charged if the benefit application is successful.
The SSA deducts the fee from the back pay and you receive the balance. The fee is a one-off payment so any benefit paid after the back pay has been paid will not incur any more charges.
There may also be some additional charges which the attorney may want you to pay up front. These include copying charges (usually minimal), and any records or reports which the attorney may order, such as medical records, school records, etc.
These are likely to be more expensive, so you need to discuss these out-of-pocket costs with the attorney before signing the attorney fee agreement.
The agreement will also need to be reviewed by the SSA so that they can confirm it meets with their criteria.
Back Pay for Disability Benefits
It can take several months before a disability benefit is approved, more if you have to appeal a denial of your initial application. When your application for a benefit is finally approved, you should be paid back pay for the period between the date you applied and the date the application was approved.
It is this back pay that is used to calculate the attorney’s legal fee, which is capped as mentioned above. Get Help With Your Claim Although an application for a disability benefit doesn’t cost anything, there are costs which have to be taken into account if you use an attorney to help you with your claim.
The main legal fees are only deducted after an application has been approved and are capped by the SSA. There may be other out-of-pocket expenses which the attorney may ask you to pay up front. Fill out a free case evaluation form today.