Social Security disability (SSD) is an area of administrative law. By its very nature, a person does not have to be a practicing attorney or even a licensed professional to represent someone in their SSD matter before an administrative law judge (ALJ) or otherwise handle a claim.
However, this is an area of the law that is highly sophisticated. Social Security is a federal program, and therefore operates by federal codes. There is also federal case law to take into account which factors in the interpretation of these federal codes.
The deeper one delves into SSD, the more evident it is that only the most experienced professionals should be handling these cases. Not only this, but it is our argument that attorneys do the best job of representing clients in these types of cases.
The sophisticated nature of these cases almost necessitates a licensed and experienced attorney to handle. An attorney will know not only how to handle the paperwork of an SSD case, but also how best to present a case before an ALJ.
What happens if you lose your claim at the hearing level? This is another area in which an attorney is of greater benefit than a licensed professional or other individual. While an attorney can appeal, a non-attorney cannot. Therefore, your case stops at rejection.
If your case is in fact denied, you not only need an attorney who understands the appeals process, but one that is prepared to handle any of the four levels of appeal. Those four levels are: reconsideration, ALJ hearing, Appeals Council Review and a Federal Court Review.
A lawyer can act on your behalf and serve to benefit you throughout the process in a number of different ways. This can include compiling information from your Social Security file, gathering necessary medical records, filing the paperwork to request reconsideration or Appeals Council review and they can also brief you for a hearing so that you can come prepared.
Due to the unique nature of SSD cases, the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines fee arrangements between representatives and clients.
According to the SSA, a fee arrangement cannot exceed 25 percent of past-due benefits or $6,000 (whichever is of a lesser value). This fee arrangement limit applies to licensed, non-licensed professionals and attorneys alike.
Therefore, the major benefit in hiring an attorney is in their experience and overall ability to be able to handle a claim should you need to appeal or ask for reconsideration.
What is an Eligible for Direct Pay Non-Attorney (EDPNA)
An Eligible for Direct Pay NonAttorney (EDPNA) is a representative who is authorized to receive direct payment from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for representing individuals with claims before the SSA. EDPNAs are accredited by the SSA and must meet certain qualifications in order to be eligible to serve as non-attorney representatives.
EDPNAs can provide assistance to individuals who are preparing for a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), assist in the preparation of appeal documents, and provide advice and assistance with obtaining medical records.
They can also represent claimants before SSA employees, but cannot represent them before an ALJ or the Appeals Council.
Federal Regulations on Representation
Federal regulations on representation in Social Security proceedings are governed by the Social Security Act. These regulations provide that any individual may represent themselves or be represented by someone else before the Social Security Administration (SSA). Representation is not required; however, individuals can choose to be represented by a qualified attorney, non-attorney representative, or other authorized representative.
The SSA requires that all representatives of claimants be either “accredited” or “authorized.” This means that the representative is recognized by the SSA as qualified to provide representation. Accredited representatives are required to pass an exam, maintain continuing education credits, and meet standards set by the SSA. Authorized representatives have fewer requirements, but must still abide by certain standards.
The regulations also provide that an attorney may enter into a fee agreement with the claimant, provided the arrangement does not exceed 25 percent of the claimant’s past due benefits or $6,000 (whichever is less). Non-attorney representatives cannot enter into fee agreements but may charge fees for their services.
The decision to hire an attorney or non-attorney representative to handle your Social Security claim is a very important one and should be taken seriously. While it may be tempting to save money by going with a non-attorney representative, an experienced attorney will provide the best chance of success in obtaining benefits.
An attorney can assist you at all levels of the appeals process, while a non-attorney representative will only be able to help with certain aspects of your case. Thus, it is important to consider all of your options carefully before making a decision.
When does SSA pay the fee?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) understands that the services provided by representatives for individuals filing for disability benefits are invaluable and therefore, will pay an appropriate fee to a qualified representative soon after it has determined the amount of the fee.
This determination process can take some time depending on the complexity of the case. In cases where one of the parties (you or your representative) request a review prior to payment, SSA will not issue payment until they have completed their review and all parties involved have been notified.
In both scenarios, the representative must submit a Fee Petition outlining their work before SSA is able to determine appropriate compensation. Additionally, representatives must meet certain qualifications set forth by SSA guidelines in order to receive payment. Finally, reviews conducted by SSA are always done with utmost scrutiny as customer satisfaction is paramount for them.
All disabled individuals filing for related benefits can rest assured that every effort is taken to ensure appropriate and fair compensation for quality service when selecting a professional representative.
Even if you feel as if there is an easy resolution to your case, Shook & Stone Las Vegas Social Security Disability Lawyers believe that it is safer and overall more beneficial to hire a lawyer. If you would like to learn more about the difference between attorney and non-attorney SSD representation or you would like to speak with our firm about representation, call today.