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Attorney fees in Social Security Disability and SSI cases are covered by statute and regulation. Any fees are subject to review by the Social Security Administration. In order to represent a claimant, an attorney must submit an Appointment of Representative form 1696, signed by claimant and attorney, after when the claimant appoints the attorney to represent him or her, and after the attorney agrees to represent the claimant. In addition, in almost all cases, a fee agreement is signed, pursuant to the guidelines of the Social Security Act and regulations of the Social Security Administration.
Since 2009, the maximum attorney fee for attorneys in Social Security Disability and SSI cases has been $6,000.00; it can never be more than 25% of back benefits, and the $6,000.00 is the most that attorneys can usually charge. That will cover all cases decided in favor of the client on or after June 22, 2009, if the favorable outcome results at the first hearing. That maximum amount was set by the Social Security Commissioner, Michael Astrue. Most attorney fee agreements for disability appeals contain language that the maximum fee will be $6,000.00 or whatever amount is set by law or regulation, so if the Social Security Administration increases the maximum attorney fee, the agreement will allow for that new fee maximum. Click here to see the regulation on the SSA site.
Several years ago, in a case entitled, Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, the United States Supreme Court, by an 8-1 vote, allowed attorneys broader recovery of attorney fees in cases which had been appealed to Court and sent back. Before that time, the Social Security Administration had argued that fees should be limited to the number of hours worked, even though the claimant signed an attorney fee agreement allowing fees of one-fourth of all back benefits, where the claimant had gone through more than one hearing. The United States Supreme Court decided that it was fair to follow the agreement of the parties. However, the Court cautioned any lower Courts that they are still to oversee attorney fees, to make sure that they are fair.