How Much Does a Social Security Lawyer Charge?

Being disabled and unable to work is an incredibly challenging life experience. Your physical or mental condition prevents you from earning an income to financially support yourself and your family. Bills pile up, savings quickly drain, and you’re left worrying how you’ll survive each month. The Social Security disability system exists to provide a safety net for people in this situation. However, navigating the complex application process and dealing with denials can be frustrating and confusing without professional guidance. If you suffer from a serious medical disorder rendering you unable to be substantially employed, hiring an experienced Social Security disability lawyer may be your best path to getting approved for vital benefits you desperately need.

What is Social Security Disability?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are government programs that provide financial and medical assistance to people with disabilities who are unable to work. To qualify for disability benefits, applicants must prove that they have a medical condition that prevents them from working and earning an income. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict evaluation process to determine if someone is disabled under their definition. Many disability applicants choose to hire a social security lawyer to help navigate the complex process and improve their chances of approval.

Why Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

The disability application process can be challenging, often taking several months or years before a final decision is reached. According to statistics from the SSA, disability applicants who have a representative are much more likely to be approved. In 2018, 45% of unrepresented applicants were approved compared to 63% of applicants with representation. There are several key reasons why hiring a lawyer can significantly increase your chances of being awarded benefits:

  • Understanding of complex social security laws and regulations
  • Assistance collecting medical records and supporting documentation
  • Representation at disability hearings and ability to present most favorable case
  • Knowledge of medical conditions that qualify for disability
  • Expertise appealing denied claims and navigating the appeals process

The benefits system is confusing and can be frustrating to navigate alone. A social security lawyer has the experience and resources to build the strongest case possible and maximize your chances of approval.

Why Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

How Much Do Social Security Disability Lawyers Charge?

Most social security disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means there is no upfront cost to hire them. The lawyer only gets paid if you win your case and receive an award of benefits. The standard fee is 25% of your lump sum back pay, up to a maximum of $6,000. This fee must be approved by the Social Security Administration.

There are no other costs or hourly fees throughout the process. All case-related costs such as obtaining medical records are covered by the law firm. Let’s break down the typical fee structure:

  • Free consultation: Initial consultations are always free. This gives you the chance to discuss your potential case and understand what the lawyer can do for you before committing to anything.
  • No upfront costs: Reputable social security lawyers will not charge any upfront fees or request payment throughout the case. You only pay if you win.
  • 25% of back pay: If awarded disability, you will receive a lump sum back payment of all the benefits you were eligible for while your claim was pending. The lawyer fee of 25% is taken directly from this lump sum, capped at $6,000.
  • Covers all case costs: In addition to the fee, your lawyer covers all expenses related to building your case so you have no out-of-pocket costs.

This contingency fee structure makes hiring representation affordable and risk-free since you pay nothing until you win your case.

How Long Does It Take to Get Disability Benefits?

The social security disability process involves multiple steps, including the initial application, reconsideration, and often a hearing. It can take anywhere from several months to several years to receive a final decision on a disability claim. If approved, you may receive a sizable lump sum back payment for all the months you were unable to work while awaiting approval.

Here is a breakdown of the average wait times at each step:

  • Initial application – 3 to 6 months for initial decision
  • Reconsideration – 2 to 4 months for reconsideration decision
  • Disability hearing – 10 to 12 months to schedule a hearing and receive a hearing decision
  • Appeals Council – 1 to 2 years for appeals council review if hearing decision is unfavorable
  • Federal Court – 6 months to 2 years if you appeal through the federal court system

Having an experienced lawyer can help move your case along more quickly. But expect the process to take around 1 to 2 years from initial application to final decision. If approved, it may take an additional 60 to 90 days to receive your first disability payment.

What Medical Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict definition of disability to determine if someone is eligible for benefits. In general, you must prove:

  • You have a severe medical condition that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death
  • Your condition prevents you from performing substantial work activity
  • Your disability makes you unable to earn over a certain monthly income ($1,310 for 2022)

Your condition must be severe enough that you cannot work at all or can only work part-time in limited capacity. Some of the most common conditions that qualify for social security disability include:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders – back injuries, arthritis, fibromyalgia
  • Neurological disorders – multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, seizures
  • Cardiac conditions – heart failure, coronary artery disease
  • Respiratory disorders – COPD, asthma, cystic fibrosis
  • Cancer – treatments and complications can prevent work
  • Mental health disorders – severe depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder
  • Cognitive impairments – dementia, traumatic brain injuries
  • Diabetes and complications – retinopathy, neuropathy
  • Autoimmune disorders – lupus, rheumatoid arthritis

Your disability lawyer can help determine if your specific symptoms and limitations meet the SSA criteria for benefits approval. Even if you are still able to work part-time or your condition varies in severity, you may still qualify for SSDI or SSI.

How Are Social Security Disability Benefits Calculated?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are based on your lifetime average earnings before becoming disabled. Higher earners receive larger monthly payments. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are needs-based and provide a basic minimum monthly income to disabled individuals with limited resources.

SSDI Benefit Calculation

Your earnings over your working career are adjusted for inflation to determine your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). This is used to calculate your primary insurance amount (PIA), which is what you receive each month in SSDI benefits. The PIA calculation formulas can vary based on when you became disabled.

In general, SSDI pays benefits equivalent to about 40% of your former average monthly income. The maximum monthly benefit in 2022 is $3,345 for someone who earned the maximum taxable amount over their entire working career.

SSI Benefit Amount

SSI pays a flat monthly amount to meet basic living needs. The maximum federal SSI rate for 2022 is $841 per month for individuals and $1,261 per month for couples. Some states supplement the federal SSI rate. Your income, living situation, and other factors determine your specific payment amount.

What If My Social Security Disability Claim Is Denied?

It is very common for disability claims to be denied at first, with over 65% denied after initial review. This does not mean you should give up. Having an experienced lawyer to represent you for an appeal or hearing can significantly improve your chances of eventually getting approved.

Reasons your claim may be initially denied include:

  • Insufficient medical evidence of disability
  • Ability to perform past work or other occupations
  • Failure to fully complete forms and paperwork
  • Not meeting the SSA disability criteria

If your application is denied, you have the right to appeal within 60 days of the denial notice. A disability lawyer can request a review of your case and present additional evidence as needed. Common stages of appeal include:

  • Reconsideration – Reexamination of your case by a different reviewer
  • Administrative Law Judge hearing – In-person disability hearing where a judge reviews your case and hears testimony
  • Appeals Council – Requests review of the judge’s hearing decision (if unfavorable)
  • Federal Court – Right to appeal to US Federal District Court after being denied through the standard SSA appeals process

Don’t assume you stand no chance if denied initially. Over half of disability denials are overturned when claimants appeal with representation. Be prepared for a long battle requiring persistence and patience.

Who Are the Best Social Security Disability Lawyers?

With so much at stake in your disability case, it is important to have an experienced lawyer you can trust. Look for these key traits when choosing representation:

  • Expertise – Look for a lawyer that specializes in social security disability and has represented many clients over their career. Check their track record of case wins and knowledge of the SSDI and SSI system.
  • Good communication – Your lawyer should be easily accessible, provide status updates, explain things clearly, and address all your questions. Make sure you are comfortable contacting them.
  • Strong reputation – Read online reviews and check with your state bar association for complaints. Reputable disability lawyers have a solid professional reputation.
  • No upfront fees – As mentioned, lawyers should charge no upfront costs and nothing unless you win benefits. Beware any lawyer asking for money early on.
  • Personalized service – Find a lawyer that sincerely cares about your case and takes time to understand your unique situation versus treating you like just another file.
  • Patience and persistence – Disability cases often drag on and hit snags that require perseverance. Make sure your lawyer will stick with you until you win.

Take the time to carefully evaluate lawyers before entrusting them with your disability claim. This increases the likelihood of getting paired with someone well-suited to fight for your benefits.

What Happens After You Get Approved?

Receiving your approval letter and back payment feels like a big victory after a long battle for benefits. However, your journey is not necessarily over after you are awarded disability. Here is what to expect after you get approved:

  • Receive award letter – This states your entitlement to benefits and estimated payment amounts. Give this documentation to your disability lawyer right away.
  • Get back payment – Within 60 to 90 days you will receive a lump sum payment for all the disability benefits you were eligible for while your claim was pending.
  • Ongoing monthly benefits – After back pay, you will continue receiving monthly benefit deposits going forward as long as you remain disabled.
  • Report income or health changes– Notify the SSA if you earn any wages from work activity or if your condition improves enough to return to work. This may affect your future benefits.
  • Reviews of eligibility – Plan for periodic reviews that your disability is still severe enough to prevent substantial work activity. Your benefits may be terminated if found no longer disabled.
  • Appeal benefit denials – If your benefits are terminated, you can appeal the decision and may choose to rehire your disability lawyer for representation if they handled your initial case.
  • Pay attorney fees – Your disability lawyer fee of 25% up to $6,000 will be deducted directly from your back pay lump sum soon after approval.

Winning disability benefits is a major burden lifted but also the start of an ongoing process. Be prepared for next steps and lean on your lawyer as long as you need support.


  • Hiring a social security disability lawyer significantly increases chances of getting benefits approved after 65% of claims are initially denied.
  • Lawyers work on contingency, charging only 25% of back pay awarded up to a $6,000 cap and covering case costs – so there is no risk or upfront payment.
  • The process often takes 1 to 2+ years including appeals, but legal expertise can help move a case along.
  • Look for lawyers with proven disability experience, strong reputation, excellent communication skills, and patience to persevere through a long battle.
  • After finally getting approved, continue reporting any changes in work status or health condition to avoid benefits being terminated.

Navigating the Social Security Administration disability system is extremely difficult without professional help. An experienced disability lawyer levels the playing field and simplifies the process so you have the best chance possible of getting approved for life-changing benefits.