If you are unable to work due to illness or injury for a year or more, you may consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits. The unfortunate reality is that the large majority (over 70%) of those who apply for these benefits have their claims denied, even after paying into the Social Security system for many years.
Although some of these disabled workers may be approved for benefits at a later stage in the appeals process, this can involve a long, stressful wait.
Luckily, there is one thing you can do to increase the chances that your claim will be approved, and that is to hire a Social Security Disability lawyer to assist you throughout the process of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits. The cost of a disability lawyer can vary. They typically require no up-front costs. Their fee will be either 25% of your back pay or $6,000, whichever is less.
How Much Does a Disability Lawyer Cost?
Many people who are considering applying for a disability benefit or who have been denied a benefit and are considering appealing the decision are worried that they would not be able to afford the services of a disability lawyer.
In most cases, this concern is not justified. Although a few disability lawyers do charge upfront fees, most work on a contingency basis.
This means that the lawyer will review the chance of you obtaining a benefit carefully first. If there is a good chance of a benefit being obtained the lawyer will defer any legal fees until the first payment is made by the SSA.
The disability benefit process is usually quite slow and it may take several months, sometimes up to a year, before approval for a benefit is made.
This process may take even longer if it has to go through the appeal process. As a rule of thumb you can assume that the lawyer will probably charge around a quarter of the back payment as a fee or $6,000, whichever is the least.
You should ensure you know what the lawyer’s fee arrangement is before hiring. In most cases the benefit of hiring a disability lawyer far outweighs the cost involved.
The lawyer in most cases will not be able to shorten the time it takes before a decision by the SSA is made, but will understand what evidence is needed to convince the examiners that you have met their criteria and can help you prepare a sound application.
What are Contingency Fees?
If you’re concerned about whether or not you can afford to hire a disability lawyer, don’t be.
Social Security Disability lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. This means that they are only paid if, and when, you are granted Social Security benefits. If your claim isn’t approved at any point in the process, you won’t pay them.
There’s no upfront cost to hire a disability lawyer. When you hire your lawyer, you’ll sign a “contingency fee agreement” that will set forth the exact terms of their payment.
These fee agreements are reviewed, and must be approved by, the Social Security Administration (SSA,) but do be sure that you carefully read it before signing, and ask questions if there’s anything that you don’t completely understand.
How is Back Pay Calculated?
When you get approved for SSDI or SSI benefits, the SSA will calculate how much back pay you are owed. Back pay for SSDI is factored in to the time that you applied for SSDI benefits. You may also receive retroactive payments, which are benefits you are owed from the date you were approved back to the date the deemed disabled by the SSA. SSDI back pay is paid in a lump sum.
Back pay for SSI benefits are calculated from the date that you were approved for SSI benefits to the month after you applied. Unlike SSDI benefits, SSI back pay does not come in a lump sum.
The one exception to this rule is if your lawyer incurs any extra costs while representing you. If this happens, they could require you to pay these upfront, or bill you for them (this should be clearly explained in your fee agreement.)
This doesn’t include routine expenses for things such as paper and long distances phone calls, but rather charges for things like copies of your medical records and reports from your doctors.
Your Social Security lawyer should always ask you before paying any expenses that you will be responsible for. In most cases, all medical records can be received for free, and the client doesn’t end up having to pay any additional expenses.
Speak with a Lawyer Today
If you are awarded Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA will decide as of what date you became disabled. This is usually around the time that you stopped working, but could be after that time if the SSA determines that your condition worsened at a later date.
This date will be clearly noted in the decision you receive. If you are found disabled at least six months prior to the date your application is granted, you will likely be paid a lump sum for your past-due benefits, and this is the amount that is used to calculate your Social Security Disability lawyer’s fee.
Your Social Security Disability lawyer’s fee will be 25%, of your back benefits, and this is often paid to them directly from the SSA. However, the fee is capped at $6,000, no matter how much in past-due benefits you receive.
If your disability hinders your ability to be able to work full team, speak with a Social Security disability lawyer today.