Social Security (SS) disability benefits are available to people who suffer a medical condition, an illness, or a disease that makes it impossible for them to work for more than a year. You might be able to get by without a paycheck for a short time.

If your medical condition becomes a long-term disability, it’s vital to have a steady income you can depend on to pay for the expenses of everyday life. SS disability benefits provide financial support and critical assistance, regardless of whether you’re dealing with a short-term disability or a permanent one. 

SS lawyer helping client with disability benefitsHowever, the reality is that only about 30 percent of individuals who apply for SS benefits receive approved claims. Even if you’ve paid into the SS system for many years or most of your life, 70 percent of applicants are denied. So it makes sense to hire a SS disability attorney to better ensure you receive an approved claim. Statistically, claimants who have legal representation when applying to SS have much better chances of winning their claims. 

While hiring a disability attorney is a smart move, many people don’t do it because they’re worried about costs. Some believe lawyers charge high rates and bill for every minute they spend working on a case. But the Social Security Administration (SSA) has specific rules about how much disability lawyers can charge for services. Most will handle your case using a contingency fee agreement.

Understanding a Contingency Fee Agreement

When you choose to hire a disability lawyer, you’ll likely sign a contingency fee agreement. With this agreement, the SSA is given permission to pay for the services of your legal representation if your claim is approved. This arrangement means:

  • You won't pay any fees upfront, and there are no initial costs to hire a disability attorney.
  • You only pay your lawyer if your claim is approved.
  • The attorney receives 25 percent of any back pay awarded to you. This back pay is money from the SSA to cover the benefits that were rightfully yours while you waited for a decision on your claim.
  • An attorney can receive up to $7,200 in payment, but no more—whether your claim is approved after the original application, after a request for Reconsideration, or if you need to appeal.
  • Your attorney is paid by a different fee structure if you have to appeal your case to the Appeals Council or file in federal court. In these cases, the attorney will receive 25 percent of your back pay without the $6,000 cap.
  • An attorney will likely submit a “fee petition” statement showing how much time was spent on your case in order for any additional fee to be approved.

Other Expenses

Although you don’t have to pay fees upfront to hire an SS disability attorney, you may be charged for some out-of-pocket expenses.

Each attorney handles the payment of these expenses a little differently. Some may ask for pre-payment of these expenses at the start—this is sometimes referred to as a retainer fee, and it's kept in a trust account to pay for expenses as they come up. Others may bill you once the case concludes.

It’s important to ask your attorney how he handles the payment of these additional expenses, which can include:

  • Photocopying and postage for any and all medical reports and documentation that need to be sent from hospitals and other medical facilities.
  • Medical opinions that detail your disability and help prove you’re unable to work.

Why You Need Cuddigan Law

If you need disability benefits from the SSA, hiring legal representation can be beneficial in getting your claim approved. At Cuddigan Law, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means you owe us nothing until or unless we win your claim.

The attorneys at Cuddigan Law have assisted thousands of clients by filling out paperwork, collecting medical records, calling doctors, and managing them through the SS application process. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska