A social security claimant may choose to be represented by a third party in his dealings with the Social Security Administration (SSA). If the third party accepts the role of “representative” on behalf of the claimant, he is prohibited from charging the claimant a fee without prior authorization from the SSA. This holds true even if the claim is denied. To obtain approval from the SSA, the representative must use either of two fee authorization processes.
The first authorization process is by fee agreement. Here, the claimant or his representative may file a fee agreement with the SSA prior to the SSA deciding the claim. If the fee agreement is approved, and administrative review is not requested, the agreed amount will be the maximum that can be charged to the claimant for the representative’s services. The fee agreement is statutorily required to be signed by both the representative and the claimant. If the claimant is a child or legally incompetent, the person responsible for the claimant’s care or a court-appointed representative must sign the agreement. Additionally, the agreed fee cannot exceed twenty-five percent of the past-due benefits amount or $5,300. Finally, the SSA’s decision must be favorable, at least partially, to the claimant.
The second authorization method is by the fee petition process. After the representative has completed his service on behalf of the claimant, he may petition the SSA for a fee amount. The SSA will only authorize a “reasonable” fee for the services performed. If more than one representative is involved in providing services to the claimant, each one must file a separate fee petition. If the SSA has already approved a fee agreement for the matter, a fee petition cannot be later filed. Generally, a representative utilizing the fee petition method must provide information as to the services provided, when such services began and ended, the amount of time spent on the claimant’s behalf, the requested fee amount, and the nature and amount of any expenses incurred.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.