How Much Will It Cost to Hire a Disability Attorney?

How Much Will It Cost to Hire a Disability Attorney?

Navigating the Social Security disability claims process can be a difficult task, especially when you are living with a chronic illness or other debilitating condition. It is common for claimants to get through the beginning stages of their claim, only to end up with a rejection letter. The entire process can weigh heavily on your mental health as well, making the need for legal guidance extremely important. However, if you’re already struggling to pay your bills due to the inability to work, how can you afford a lawyer?

How Much Does a Social Security Disability Attorney Cost?

Luckily, Social Security disability attorneys work differently than many other attorneys you may collaborate with during your lifetime. To help a much wider client base, disability lawyers don’t charge their clients any up-front fees or require that you put down a retainer fee. Instead, the majority of disability lawyers work on a contingency basis—where they will only be paid if they can help you win your benefits.

What is a Contingency Fee?

When you initially speak with a disability attorney or advocate, it’s common to sign a contingency fee agreement that gives the Social Security Administration (SSA) permission to allocate a portion of your awarded fees to your attorney to help cover the cost of their services. If your claim is approved, the SSA will go over the details of the agreement to make sure it follows all fee agreement guidelines and ensure that your legal counsel receives the payment they are entitled too. There is no additional work that you need to complete on your end, eliminating the need for bank transfers or writing a check.

For those who are unable to pay up-front fees to a lawyer or advocate, this is a great opportunity to get the help you need to follow the SSA’s strict guidelines. When a fee agreement is made on a contingency basis, you can rest easy knowing that your disability attorney will not be paid unless you win your claim.

How Much is the Social Security Disability Attorney’s Fee?

When you enter into a written agreement with a disability attorney, it states that if you win your claim, the fee amount they are entitled to is capped at 25% of your past-due benefits. While this may seem like a large sum, the maximum fee that your disability lawyer can be awarded is also limited to $6,000. Additionally, if your claim must be appealed at a federal level, your lawyer may be entitled to additional fees. However, most Social Security disability claims end at the Social Security hearing stage.

Another important factor to keep in mind when it comes to contingency fees is the fact that your attorney is only paid if you are awarded past-due benefits. If no past-due or “backpay” benefits are awarded in your claim, your attorney will not be paid a fee for their services. However, if this situation arises, your disability attorney can submit a fee petition to the SSA to request a higher fee.

Additional Costs

Throughout the course of the Social Security disability claims process, you may be required to present the SSA with lots of different paperwork to help support your claim. The SSA may request that you provide them with medical, work and school records and undergo new medical or psychological testing. These costs are typically paid outside of a contingency fee and are the responsibility of the client. As you consider hiring a disability lawyer, you must ask whether you may be charged any other additional fees out-of-pocket before agreeing to work together.

Should I Hire a Disability Attorney?

Because there is little to no risk of paying out-of-pocket for a disability attorney fees, it is often in the best interest of the claimant to hire a Social Security disability attorney. The Social Security disability claims process can be grueling, especially if your claim is denied right away. It can be difficult to pick yourself back up and file an appeal without proper legal guidance and an advocate by your side. However, when you hire a disability attorney who works with clients on a contingency basis, you can enjoy peace of mind in knowing that they will do everything in their power to ensure that you are awarded all of the benefits you’re entitled to.

Once you are awarded your benefits, the SSA will do all of the work necessary to determine your backpay amount and pay your attorney fees before awarding your first disability check. The maximum amount that will be subtracted from your benefits is just 25% of your backpay or a maximum of $6,000. There’s no negotiating over fees and you’ll never have to worry about doing the math either.

Contact Joel Thrift Law Today

There’s no reason that you need to fight for your disability benefits on your own. Are you interested in learning more about the many benefits of working with an attorney on your Social Security disability claim? At Joel Thrift Law, we have the knowledge and experience necessary to guide you through the Social Security disability claims process. Got a question? Give us a call today at (678) 296-7952 or contact us today for more information and be sure to schedule an initial consultation.

Social Security Jargon: “There are no jobs available in the US economy” ~ What does it mean?

Social Security Jargon: "There are no jobs available in the US economy" ~ What does it mean?

If you have a medical condition that prevents you from working, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Before the Social Security Administration (SSA) agrees to give you monthly benefits, it must be determined that “there are no jobs in the U.S. economy that you can do.”  

What exactly does this Social Security jargon mean, especially if the job market is strong? Let’s take a closer look at how Social Security determines whether work exists in the national economy. 

According to the SSA, work exists in the U.S. economy if there is a significant number of jobs with requirements that you can meet despite your physical limitations or mental ability. Therefore, Social Security does not consider you disabled.

But, if there are specific types of jobs for which you qualify that exist “in very limited numbers” and in “relatively few locations” outside of the area in which you live, SSA does not consider these jobs as “work which exists in the national economy.” Therefore, Social Security will determine that you are disabled.

For illustration purposes, let’s say you have worked for decades on a farm and performed manual labor and managed crop production. If your work skills do not match the requirements of jobs available in the area in which you live, then work in the national economy does not exist for you, according to SSA. 

Answering SSA’s Question of “Why?”

Regardless of your disability, SSA takes a “show, don’t tell” approach when it comes to disability benefits. In other words, Social Security expects you to show how your physical impairment or mental disorder prevents you from being gainfully employed in jobs for which you may be qualified. So, it is best to provide SSA with relevant evidence of all of your medical conditions, mental disorders, and physical limitations. 

If you are not forthcoming with your health issues, your application for disability benefits may be denied if SSA believes that you can work with reasonable accommodations. For example, if you simply say you have a back problem without providing detailed documentation about your condition, SSA may believe an employer can accommodate you by allowing you to take breaks when your back begins to hurt. 

However, providing evidence that rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative disc disease are causing your chronic back pain, and you receive frequent treatments for these incurable conditions, improves your chances of getting approved for disability benefits. 

Find Your Impairment in SSA’s Blue Book

Social Security uses a manual as part of its process of establishing eligibility for disability benefits. The Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, also known as the “Blue Book,” gives insight into the type of medical conditions Social Security views as severe impairments that can prevent people from working. The extensive “Listing of Impairments” includes major parts of the body such as: 

  • Cardiovascular system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Digestive system
  • Respiratory system
  • Special sense and speech
  • Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems

Within the categorical listing of impairments are:

  • Definitions of the condition
  • What the SSA considers in evaluating the impairments
  • The type of documentation SSA needs to determine eligibility for disability disorders

You may still qualify for disability even if your impairment is not listed in the Blue Book as long as your medical condition matches the severity of one of the impairments listed in the book.

You can strengthen your case for disability benefits by collecting evidence to support the conclusion that there is no job in the U.S. economy that you can do. Generally, the type of evidence that supports a disability claim includes medical records, a doctor’s statement about diagnosing and treating a condition, and laboratory test results or imaging scans.

Most importantly, your statement and statements from your family members about your diminished quality of life due to your disability should be included in your SSA package. 

SSA may ask you to take a Consultative Medical Examination performed by an independent medical professional. Sometimes, Social Security requests an exam when there are questions about the severity of an applicant’s medical condition. If you do not take this examination when asked, SSA can make a decision without the evidence that you need to support your claim. 

You Can Appeal a Social Security Denial 

It is not unusual for SSA to deny claims. Fortunately, you can ask SSA to reconsider a denied application. If the claim is denied after a reconsideration, SSA has the following steps you can take to appeal denials:

  • Request a hearing before a federal Administrative Law Judge
  • Request SSA’s Appeals Council to review the judge’s decision
  • File a civil lawsuit in a federal district court

Before taking action on our own to appeal a denial, it would be to your advantage to consult with a Social Security disability attorney. 

Get Legal Help With Your SSDI Claim 

Social Security typically denies claims because applicants lack proof that satisfies SSA of their disability.  At Joel Thrift Law, we can help you provide evidence that can lead to a favorable decision about your disability benefits. 

If SSA has denied your claim, we can review your application and file for a reconsideration. We can also represent you in the appeals process. With help from a Social Security disability attorney, you have a greater chance of getting disability benefits. 

The Social Security disability process is time sensitive and you only have a limited amount of time to appeal a denial. So, contact Joel Thrift Law today to schedule a consultation.

What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing

What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing

Was your Social Security disability claim denied? While this may cause financial hardship, it’s not the end of the world. The Social Security Administration denies many claims, and the reason often isn’t that you’re not entitled to disability coverage.

Here’s what you can expect if you have to appeal.

Who Is Eligible for Social Security Disability?

An appeal for Social Security disability depends on whether you are, in fact, eligible. Social Security disability works similarly to the more well-known Social Security retirement benefits. When your FICA taxes are withheld, you’re paying into both potential retirement and disability benefits.

The qualifications for disability are similar to retirement. You need a certain number of work credits, and your benefits may vary based on your previous income and how much you paid in taxes. The number of credits needed varies according to your age so that young workers who are disabled early in their careers are still able to take advantage of their benefits.

You also need to be medically eligible. This means that you have a serious enough disability so that you can’t perform substantial gainful work activities. If you have too much-earned income during a year, even from a lower-paying part-time job than the full-time job you can no longer perform, you may be found not medically eligible by default.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability

If you become disabled and are no longer able to work, you should apply for disability benefits as soon as possible. The typical application process takes at least six months, and most people have to file an appeal after their initial application is denied. There’s also a five-month waiting period before your disability payments start.

If there are delays in the application process, you will usually be eligible to receive back pay of your benefits. However, you may struggle to pay your bills in the meantime depending on your level of savings.

Why Most People Have to Appeal

To prevent fraud, the Social Security Administration makes the application process very difficult. You need to correctly fill out the forms, and the supporting information provided by your doctor needs to exactly match the requirements for eligibility. Just like health insurance billing, doctors may not include enough information or may not use the magic words that the Social Security Administration needs to hear to approve your application. If your application is incomplete or doesn’t have the right medical information, you haven’t proven that you’re disabled under the law.

What Happens at a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing?

A Social Security disability appeal hearing is similar to a trial that you might see on TV. There will be an administrative law judge who evaluates your case, representatives from the Social Security Administration who will explain why your claim was denied, and your own attorney who will explain either why your application should have been approved or why it should be approved in light of the information presented in the hearing.

You don’t have to have a lawyer at this hearing, but most of the hearing will be about legal technicalities and making sure the evidence meets the exact requirements of the law. If your application already got denied, it may be hard for you to figure out what you need to do to legally support your appeal. On the other hand, an experienced Social Security disability lawyer will know what medical records and doctors’ statements are needed to support your appeal.

To learn more about the Social Security disability appeals process or what you need to do to get your benefits, contact Joel Thrift Law today.