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Social Security Announces Increase to Fee Cap for Social Security Disability Representatives

Posted November 29, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

For the last thirteen years, the maximum fee allowed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) under the fee agreement process has been $6,000.  SSA has recently announced an increase to the maximum fee allowed under the fee agreement process.  Effective November 30, 2022, the maximum fee a representative can charge will be raised to $7,200. 

The Social Security Administration cited multiple reasons for increasing the fee cap; including the cost of living adjustment (COLA) rates, inflation, PIA data, and feedback from Social Security representatives.  Notably, while there is often an annual cost of living adjustment for Social Security disability beneficiaries, the November 2022 fee cap increase will be only the third of its kind in the last twenty years. 

The new fee cap applies to any case that is decided favorably on or after November 30, 2022, regardless of when that case was filed.  Many representatives have “escalator” language built into their fee agreement that expressly allows for payment of the increased fee cap.  In particular, our firm’s fee agreement specifically states that we are charging a fee equal to the lesser of 25% of a client’s back pay award or the maximum amount allowed by the Social Security Administration.    

If you have a pending claim for Social Security Disability benefits, or you are getting ready to file a claim for benefits, it is likely that the new fee cap will apply to your claim.  If you have any questions about the increase to the fee cap, your appointed representative will be able to assist with you. 

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Advantages of Hiring a Representative

Posted October 31, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Whether or not to hire a Representative is likely one of the first decisions you’ll make regarding your claim. While you’re not required to do so, there are several advantages to hiring a Representative. Not only can they help you collect necessary documents and prepare a legal argument, they are aware of a number of procedural and administrative mechanisms that could aid your claim. They can also make a substantial difference in the amount of backpay you receive once you’re awarded benefits.

Many of these advantages stem from a Representative’s familiarity with concepts such as substantial gainful activity, residual functional capacity assessments, Listing arguments, and the medical-vocational guidelines. Representatives are also familiar with various filing requirements associated with your claim. Overall, they can save you a lot of time, and the best part is that Representative pay is capped by the Social Security Administration.

One of the most important things a Representative can do is evaluate your medical and employment documents to establish an alleged onset date that maximizes your potential benefits. Any awarded benefits will be a function of your application date, claim type, and your alleged onset date. Of course, that’s only a broad summary. The details are where Representatives earn their living: by combing income documents to identify periods below the level of substantial gainful activity, sifting through medical records to ensure they exist in sufficient quality to support a disabled finding as of a specific date, etc.

Disability claims, once awarded, generally include some element of backpay. Depending on your claim type, you may be eligible for benefits as of your application date or one year prior to the application date, though benefits cannot precede your alleged onset date. Representatives understand this process, and they will help you establish the best and most defensible argument for the highest potential award.

Of course, there are also the legal aspects to address. Some parts of the disability process are technical. In addition to the terms and processes above, Representatives are familiar with a multitude of components and requirements that could help your claim, such as when a consultative exam may be required, issues that should be appealed, definitions from social security regulations, and so on. Overall, hiring a Representative could be more efficient than representing yourself.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC

What Is the Asset Limit for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?

Posted October 25, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) program has no asset limit—but, the Social Security Administration (SSA) operates two separate disability programs.

One program is SSDI (often just called “Social Security disability”) and the other is SSI (Supplemental Security Income). To be eligible for SSDI, a worker has to pay FICA taxes into the Social Security system for many years. (Or someone who is self-employed has to pay self-employment, or SECA, taxes for many years.) To be eligible for SSI, someone has to have low income and assets (which the SSA calls “resources”).

Asset Rules for Social Security Disability

Social Security disability is a benefit that workers pay for, and qualify for, through the tax contributions they pay into the Social Security system. So the SSDI program does not limit the amount of cash, assets, or resources an applicant owns. An SSDI applicant can own two houses, four cars, and have $1,000,000 in the bank and still qualify for benefits.

The SSDI program also doesn’t have a limit to the amount of “unearned income” someone can bring in; for instance, rent from rental property or dividends from investments. (But, an applicant who earns more than a certain amount of wages or “earned income” by working in a job, managing a business, or being self-employed won’t qualify as disabled because Social Security will find that person capable of working.)

Asset Rules for SSI Disability

The rules for SSI are completely different. SSI is a need-based program for those living in poverty. To be eligible for SSI, an individual has to have low income (generally under $900 to $1,700 per month) and low assets (less than $2,000). For couples, the asset limit is $3,000.

Certain assets don’t count toward the limit, including one car and one house. For more information on what assets count for SSI purposes, see our article on the SSI property limit.

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