INFORMATION FOR CLAIMANTS
What a Representative May Do
We will work directly with your appointed representative unless he or she asks us to work directly with you. Your representative may:
- get information from your claim(s) file;
- give us evidence or information to support your claim;
- come with you, or for you, to any interview, conference, or hearing you have with us;
- request a reconsideration, hearing, or Appeals Council review; and
- help you and your witnesses prepare for a hearing and question any witnesses.
Also, your representative will receive a copy of the decision(s) we make on your claim(s). We will rely on your representative to tell you about the status of your claim(s), but you still may call or visit us for information.
You and your representative(s) are responsible for giving Social Security accurate information. It is wrong to knowingly and willingly furnish false information. Doing so may result in criminal prosecution.
We usually continue to work with your representative until (1) you tell us that he or she no longer represents you; or (2) your representative tells us that he or she is withdrawing or indicates that his or her services have ended (for example, by filing a fee petition or not pursuing an appeal). We do not continue to work with someone who is suspended or disqualified from representing claimants.
What Your Representative(s) May Charge
Each representative you appoint can ask for a fee. To charge you a fee for services, your representative must get our approval. (Even when someone else will pay the fee for you, for example, an insurance company, your representative usually must get our approval.) One way is to file a fee petition. The other way is to file a fee agreement with us. In either case, your representative cannot charge you more than the fee amount we approve. If he or she does, promptly report this to your Social Security office. Please do this within 20 days of receiving your copy of the petition.
We will review the petition and consider the reasonable value of the services provided. Then we will tell you in writing the amount of the fee we approve.
Filing A Fee Agreement
If you and your representative have a written fee agreement, one of you must give it to us before we decide your claim(s). We usually will approve the agreement if you both signed it; the fee you agreed on is no more than 25 percent of past-due benefits, or $6,000 (or a higher amount we set and announced in the Federal Register), whichever is less; we approve your claim(s); and your claim results in past-due benefits. We will tell you in writing the amount of the fee your representative can charge based on the agreement.
If we do not approve the fee agreement, we will tell you and your representative in writing. Then your representative must file a fee petition to charge and collect a fee.
After we tell you the amount of the fee your representative can charge, you or your representative can ask us to look at it again if either or both of you disagree with the amount. (If we approved a fee agreement, the person who decided your claim(s) also may ask us to lower the amount.) Someone who did not decide the amount of the fee the first time will review and finally decide the amount of the fee.
How Much You Pay
You never owe more than the fee we approve, except for:
any fee a Federal court allows for your representative’s services before it; and
out-of-pocket expenses your representative incurs or expects to incur, for example, the cost of getting your doctor’s or hospital’s records. Our approval is not needed for such expenses.
Your representative may accept money in advance as long as he or she holds it in a trust or escrow account. If an attorney or a non-attorney who is eligible to receive direct fee payment represents you, and if your retirement, survivors, disability insurance, and/or supplemental security income claim(s) results in past-due benefits, we usually withhold 25 percent of your past-due benefits to pay toward the fee for you.
You must pay your representative directly:
- the rest of the fee you owe
NOTE: if the amount of the fee is more than any amount(s) your representative held for you in a trust or escrow account and we withheld and paid your representative for you.
- all of the fee you owe
- if we did not withhold past-due benefits, for example, because your representative waived direct payment, or you discharged the representative, or the representative withdrew from representing you before we issued a favorable decision; or if we withheld, but later paid you the money because your representative did not either ask for our approval until after 60 days of the date of your notice of award or tell us on time that he or she planned to ask for a fee.