Disappointed man doing thumb down.

If you are dissatisfied with the services provided by your SSDI lawyer, you are allowed to fire your attorney for Social Security disability at any time. However, you should consider the impact on the timeline of your existing disability claim and extra financial expenses caused by attorneys’ fees before you take any definitive actions.

Filing a Social Security Disability Claim

Social Security disability benefits are handled through two Federal programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While these two programs differ in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and benefits are only available to people who meet medical criteria and have an approved disability.

When filing a claim for disability benefits, having an attorney is not required. Working with a lawyer is recommended, however, because most Social Security disability claims are initially denied. Evidence shows that having an attorney or professional advocate can boost your chances of receiving SSDI or SSI benefits. A study by the federal Government Accountability Office found that people who have legal representation at disability hearings are three times more likely to have successful outcomes.

When Should You Fire Your Attorney for Social Security Disability?

Working with a disability lawyer on a SSDI or SSI claim has many benefits, but it’s important to find the right lawyer for your needs. If you hire a lawyer who has minimal experience with Social Security disability claims, the outcome may be less than satisfactory.

If you become unhappy or frustrated with your case, you have the option to fire your attorney for Social Security disability. However, you should consider why you want to fire him or her, and how doing so may affect your claim. Reasons to fire your attorney for Social Security disability may include:

  • The claim process is taking too long
  • The attorney does not give your claim priority
  • The attorney does not return phone calls or emails promptly
  • Errors in SSDI or SSI paperwork
  • Lack of follow-up with Social Security Administration officials
  • Lack of knowledge about Social Security laws

If you hire an attorney to handle your Social Security disability claim, good communication is key to a successful outcome. Although it is often little your attorney can do to speed up the Social Security disability process, he or she should give your claim the due diligence it requires. Before you decide to look for a different attorney, you should talk to your attorney about your frustrations and give him or her an opportunity to resolve the problems. Firing your attorney may result in increased legal fees and a delayed claim process.

How Do You Fire Your Attorney for Social Security Disability?

If you decide it’s best to fire your attorney for Social Security disability, you will be required to take certain actions. The first action is to send a letter to your attorney, as well as send a copy of that letter to the Social Security Administration. Your letter should indicate your desire to fire your attorney and a request made to your attorney to send the Social Security Administration a letter of withdrawal.

A few weeks after your letters have been sent, it’s important to contact the Social Security Administration by letter, email, or phone call to verify that your attorney has been removed from your disability claim. If you have an online “My Social Security” account, you may be able to track information on your case.

Will There Be Additional Expenses?

If you fire your attorney for Social Security disability, you may incur additional expenses for attorneys’ fees. When you hired your attorney, you likely signed a contract that addressed a legal fee agreement. You may be liable for expenses that were incurred prior to your attorney’s dismissal. In addition, your attorney may petition the Social Security Administration for a portion of your past due disability benefits. However, statutory limits prevent payments that are more than 25% of your past-due benefits, or more than $6,000.

In most cases, disability lawyers will not pursue these actions, if they are informed of termination early in the disability process. If you delay notice of termination with your attorney, and the disability process is further along, your attorney is more likely to petition the Social Security Administration for a portion of your disability benefits because of the time and effort invested in your case.

Will it Be a Problem to Hire Another Disability Attorney?

In most cases, you will be able to hire another attorney after you fire your attorney for Social Security disability. If you explain the details of the situation and your reasons for firing your previous attorney, another attorney may take over the case. For instance, if your previous attorney made errors on your paperwork related to impairment-related work expenses, and those errors affected your benefits, this is a valid reason for dismissal. The Social Security Administration allows disabled workers to deduct certain expenses from their gross income. These expenses may impact a worker’s eligibility for disability benefits.

Do Disability Attorneys Still Get Paid After You Fire Them?

In most cases, disability attorneys and legal advocates work on a contingency basis. This means they only get paid if a Social Security disability claim is approved. Any fee agreement between you and your attorney or advocate must be authorized by the Social Security Administration.

If your SSDI or SSI claim is successful, Social Security pays your attorney or legal representative directly from your “back pay,” which is past-due benefits that Social Security can award. Back pay only applies if it is determined after the fact that you were medically qualified to receive benefits while still awaiting a ruling on your case. This amount is capped by federal law at 25% of your back pay or $6,000, whichever is less.

In some cases, attorneys and legal advocates may file a fee petition with Social Security requesting more than the $6,000 cap. This may happen when a claim involves multiple appeals that result in extensive, additional legal work, or when a claimant changes attorneys midstream and both attorneys are seeking payments. In such cases, Social Security must approve any additional fees prior to payments.

What Are the Benefits of Working With a Social Security Disability Attorney?

If you need to file a Social Security disability claim, the benefits of hiring an attorney for legal representation far outweigh the costs.

Long-Term Disability Claims

Serious work-related illnesses and injuries can put workers out of work for months or even years. When this occurs, a long-term disability lawyer can maximize benefits and oversee the disability claim process. A disabled worker is not required to wait an entire year to file for Social Security disability benefits. He or she can qualify for benefits as soon as a medical prognosis indicates the worker will be out of work for at least one year.

Denied Claims and Appeals

Unfortunately, it’s estimated that up to 60% of Social Security disability claims are initially denied. However, there is no limit on the number of times you can apply for SSDI or SSI benefits. If your claim is denied, a Social Security disability attorney file an appeal, requests a hearing and help you win a Social Security disability federal court appeal.

Federal court appeals are especially complicated. They are the final level of court appeals available to claimants who have denied claims and benefits. Having a Social Security disability attorney for legal representation is important in this stage of the appeals process. An attorney can help you get through the four levels of SSDI appeals. These include reconsideration of your disability claim, a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), a review with an appeals council, and filing a claim in federal court.

Prior to filing federal court appeals, an individual must have already applied for disability benefits, requested reconsideration, appeared before an ALJ, and requested an Appeals Council review, all with denied or negative results. When all of this occurs, a Social Security disability attorney can ensure that proper steps are taken within the permitted time period of 60 days.

Federal and state filing restrictions related to SSDI and SSI claims are vigorously enforced. If 60 days pass and no further actions are taken, the Social Security Administration is likely to close the case. Although the claimant is permitted to start over with a new SSDI or SSI claim, his or her chances of a successful outcome are diminished due to the previously closed case that failed to meet filing deadlines.

When choosing a disability attorney to handle your case, you should notify Social Security in writing. You can download an SSA-1696 form from the Social Security website and send the completed version to your local Social Security office, or have your attorney file it for you electronically. Both you and your attorney will need to provide an electronic signature for verification to the Social Security Administration.