What will a Representative Do For You?
No one is required to have a representative represent them on a Railroad Retirement disability or Social Security disability case, but most people do have a representative at least by the time of the hearing before the administrative law judge, and you can consult a representative at any time, even before filing a claim. The government’s own figures show that people who have a representative are more likely to win. A representative who is familiar with Railroad Retirement disability and Social Security disability cases will know all the details of how to appeal. He or she should be skilled in sizing up your disability and counseling you on how the law applies to your condition. Your representative should know how to decide what medical proof is needed for your case, and how to get it. He or she will prepare you before your hearing, so you can explain your disability to the judge in the strongest way possible. Your representative should also be able to explain all of the government’s decisions, and help you with any problems that come up about your payments if you are approved.
When Do You Call for Representation?
Our firm is comprised of non-attorney representatives. We are happy to talk to you on the phone, without charge, before you file if you have any questions about whether you are eligible. We are happy to work with you at any point in the case. The sooner we talk to you, the sooner we can advise you how to deal with Railroad Retirement and/or Social Security. However, if you are denied a second time (what Social Security calls a “reconsideration”), it is a good idea to see a representative as soon as you can. The third step is the hearing with an administrative law judge – that is the time you need a representative the most, and when the representative can do you the most good. We strongly advise people who are thinking about having a representation act for them at the hearing to contact an representative before filing the request for a hearing, rather than filing the appeal yourself. If you do not have a representative at the hearing and the judge turns you down, it is then sometimes too late for a representative to help. However, if you are in this situation, you should still call a representative to get advice on appealing again or filing on a new claim.
How Do Representatives Charge on Social Security Cases?
On most, but not all, Social Security cases, representatives charge what is called a “contingent fee.” This means that the representative’s fee is a percentage (usually 25%) of any back pay the government owes you by the time you finally win the case, and if you do not get benefits the representative does not charge you anything. Our firm does not require a retainer fee for most types of cases. Don’t be afraid to ask exactly how any representative charges – it’s your case and your money. There are some kinds of Social Security problems for which you may need a representative, but you will not be due any back pay if you win. A representative cannot take this kind of case on a percentage – there is nothing to figure a percentage on. The representative may want to charge by the hour (whether you win or lose), or you may make some other arrangement.
Fees should be clearly set out before you decide to hire a particular representative. All representative fees are regulated by Railroad Retirement and Social Security. In some cases, your representative must file a written application with Social Security at the end of the case, and the final amount of the fee is then set by the government. For most types of benefits (but not SSI), Social Security will hold out the 25% of your back pay, and send your representative a check for the fee they approve. In other cases, you will have to pay the representative yourself. SSI claims are the most common kind of case in which you must pay your representative directly, but this can also happen in certain other cases which do not involve back pay if you win and when your representative is not an attorney. Be sure to ask your representative how his or her fee will be paid in your particular case. A fee of 25% of any back pay due, up to a current limit of $6,000.00, will be automatically approved in many cases. However, you, your representative, or the administrative law judge may still ask for the fee to be individually reviewed in a given case, if one of you object to a fee of 25%.