Important: We updated this article in May 2023 to reflect the new SSA lawyer fee policy and average costs for clients. Filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) seems like it should be straightforward. However, the reality is that only about 31% of applicants ever actually receive benefits. Research has shown Social Security disability attorneys can markedly increase your chances of getting benefits.
Not only can Social Security disability attorneys guide you through the process and paperwork, they also know the ropes. That means they can help you gather the necessary evidence you’ll need to qualify, medical and otherwise. They also know what mistakes and issues to look for that might hamper your chances for success.
Plus, Social Security disability attorneys can join you for meetings with Social Security Administration (SSA) officials, and the SSA will provide them with access to information in your file. This is especially helpful if you’re denied — which most people are initially — because you’ll already have an attorney who knows your case ready to help you appeal. In fact, a 2017 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found people with legal representation at disability hearings are nearly 3x more likely to win benefits.
Financial Basics for Hiring Social Security Disability Attorneys
Having an expert in your corner is worth every penny. But how many pennies is that going to be? Well, the good news is that Social Security disability attorneys cost less than you might think.
To begin with, most Social Security disability lawyers work on contingency. That means they only receive payment if you do! So, you don’t have to pay any money up front, which obviously helps if you’re already dealing with income insecurity.
This is especially important to note because there is a required unpaid waiting period for all SSDI claims. You must be disabled for five months after your disability onset date before you can start getting SSDI cash payments. You become able to receive benefits at the beginning of the sixth month, assuming your claim review is complete. Many claims take longer, however, so you will likely get a “back pay” settlement once you receive your approval.
In other words, it can take as long as two years for SSDI applicants without lawyers to see any benefits. Hiring a Social Security disability attorney, however, can help speed up the process. And because they don’t get paid until you get money, there’s incentive on their end to speed things up, too!
So, What Does a Lawyer Actually Charge?
Federal law says SSD lawyers can’t charge more than $7,200 or 25% of the claimant’s lump-sum back payment, whichever one is smaller. While that might sound like a lot of money, remember that most people never see anything, or it takes years. So, hiring a Social Security disability attorney can actually “make” you money you might not have received otherwise.
Using government data from 2023, LegalASAP calculated that the average amount paid to Social Security disability lawyers per case was only $2,435.85.
Also, before your attorney can take anything from your settlement, they have to file a “Fee Agreement” with the SSA. And, your lawyer must submit that fee agreement to the SSA prior to the first positive determination in your case. This helps ensure you will not be taken advantage of by a representative.
If your claim is successful, the SSA will pay your lawyer directly out of your back pay, so you don’t have to worry about it. This doesn’t include the amount of time and stress that a Social Security disability lawyer can also save you in negotiating what can be a tricky and confusing process. That’s a priceless bonus.
How Do I Find a Social Security Disability Attorney?
LegalASAP has a network of Social Security disability attorneys with whom we can connect you, so please feel free to reach out and we’ll help you find the right match for your case.
Once you choose an attorney, you’ll need to notify the SSA in writing. Either download the SSA-1696 form from the SSA website and submit it yourself. Or you can ask your Social Security disability attorney to electronically file it for you. Once you and your lawyer provide an electronic signature for verification, you’ll be on your way to getting the benefits you deserve!
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online SSD benefits evaluation now!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann