I’m on the topic of Social Security attorney and non-attorney representative fees today. We have talked about the typical fee agreement for Social Security disability benefits before and when attorneys use a fee petition.
Social Security Fees – A Quick Recap:
Social Security regulates how much representatives can charge. Currently, that’s 25% of the back disability benefits or $6,000 (whichever is less). But, who wants to pay retail?
- You go buy a car, you haggle!
- You buy a major appliance, you look for sales!
- Any time you spend a significant amount of money, you are going to look for the best deal.
So, it’s only natural, to look for the best price when you look for legal services. Am I right?
And that’s where you get into trouble.
You saw the part about how fees are regulated by Social Security? SSA isn’t keeping the fees UP, it keeping them DOWN to keep us unscrupulous lawyers from charging you even more! So, if someone is charging even less, perhaps it’s time to recall what your parents told you,
If somethings sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Let me give you an example:
A couple of years ago, I had a lovely gentleman sitting across from me talking about all the trouble he had trying to get his Social Security disability benefits. He had been trying for years! He had one hearing on his own and got denied. He tried again with a non-attorney representative. No dice! People told him to “get a lawyer,” but he resisted because of the cost. After two failed attempts, he decided to go see what all the fuss was about and find out what an attorney could do for him. We talked about his case, what I thought we could do to win his benefits, and then we got to the attorney fees: 25% of the back benefits up to $6,000.
Client: $6,000… huh? My last representative only charged me $1,000.
Attorney: What do you mean they ‘charged you’? They didn’t win your case.
Client: No, but it was much less than what you’re asking for.
$1,000 IS a lot less than $6,000. But, $1,000 paid even if you lose, is more than 25%-up-to-$6,000-max paid only if you win.
Here is the thing, do you really think that other representative was going to walk away from the percentage if they won? Of course not! They are just trying to get paid either way. And just maybe, if you forget to ask, they get the percentage plus the $1,000 deposit!
What to watch out for
Unfortunately, this is where some non-lawyer representatives play fast and loose. They may charge you some money up front and may not refund it if they lose the case. Some people do not ask for the money because…
Well, they took my case and they tried their best.
You have to remember, under Social Security regulations, a representative cannot charge any fee (note: this does not include the expenses) unless it is approved by the Social Security Administration.
Of course, you may have the same problem with a lawyer. However, because of the higher level of regulation lawyers work under, they are less likely to scam you.
Now, what was that other thing your parents or grandparents told you?
You get what you pay for.
Or, the version I like is,
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
Whichever version you grew up with, just remember: not every bargain is a savings.