Apr 25, 2016

CCD Endorsed increase In Fee Cap

     The Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the major umbrella organization of disability organizations in the U.S. has sent a letter to the Acting Commissioner of Social Security endorsing an increase in the cap on fees that attorneys may charge for representing disability claimants and for a change in the regulations to require an annual cost of living adjustment on the cap. The cap has been stuck at $6,000 since 2009. If it were adjusted for inflation since the statute was first passed, the cap would be over $7,000. However, CCD only endorsed adjusting the cap to $6,904, basing the adjustment on the increase in the cost of living since 2009.
     Despite what you may hear from some people who have never represented a Social Security claimant, either the cap is raised in the not too distant future or there will be no further representation of Social Security disability claimants because it won't be economically feasible. Already, the number of attorneys representing Social Security claimants has declined significantly. The rest of us are struggling to hang on. Anyone who thinks it's easy to make money representing Social Security claimants  is encouraged to start doing it themselves. It may be ten years or more since I've heard of a Social Security employee leaving the agency to start representing claimants.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen. there is no profit in my SS practice (that comes from other areas, thankfully). I continue to operate my SS practice simply because I believe it is some of the most important work we do. It breaks even, so my staff has jobs they love. But that's it.

Anonymous said...

So... Representative should get a pay increase because they haven't had a cost-of-living adjustment in several years? And yet SSA employees haven't had a cost-of-living adjustment in more than five years. Even with the miniscule raises that Obama has provided to federal employees,they haven't kept up with the cost of living, either. Federal agencies have been losing employees because they can't keep them when the private sector offers multiples of federal salaries for the same or similar jobs. Especially agencies with significant legal segments are losing employees to law firms, etc., and this includes paralegals, attorneys and even judges. Representatives, at least, can broaden their practice when this particular niche contracts. Federal employees can't do the same-they are forced to leave the public sector. The private sector has been doing much better than the public sector in recent years. What's the answer there?

Anonymous said...

I was a Disability Specialist (DS) at the Birmingham DDS for about 4 years while I went to a night law school. I got on with a PI firm as a case manager while still in school (yes I left a cushy DDS job for a life as a rep, yes insane I know), passed the bar, and have repped hundreds of clients throughout AL, TN, and parts of MS/GA. I've repped claimants out of now 16 ODARs throughout the areas as noted. I make it a point to talk to reps that I don't know to see if they have SSA/DDS/ODAR (OHA) experience. I know of a total of three attorneys in Alabama that are former SSAers...two of them worked for OHA in the '80s. As far as I know I am the only former claims adjudicator repping clients in Alabama. All this being said, Charles' point as to former SSAers not leaving the agency to rep clients is spot on. Also, I know of ODAR staffers who simply can't leave ODAR because they would never start off making what they do at ODAR...plus all the perks of working from home, federal holidays galore, life is easy there. Life is not easy as a rep in many, many ways. Alright, back to prepping for 6 hearings this week.

Anonymous said...

At first, the maximum an attorney could charge was $10 unless a petition was filed and a higher amount was authorized. In 1960, the amount an attorney could charge without approval was increased to $20 for representation before the Bureau of Federal Old-Age Benefits with amounts up to $50 for representation before the Bureau and a hearing examiner and/or the Appeals Council. Disability cash benefits had begun in 1956 and more and more appeals were on disability claims.

Based on inflation, $20 in 1960 is worth $168 today.

Heck, why don't we just eliminate the whole cap thing and make it like Work Comp and VA and take a straight 25% or more.

Dan Smith said...

If disability is so unprofitable someone please explain to me the cost for the term "social security disability" on Google Adwords right now.

Anonymous said...

@9:50 "And yet SSA employees haven't had a cost-of-living adjustment in more than five years."

Maybe SSA employees would do a better job if they were working on a contingency arrangement as well.

Anonymous said...

True. Neverthelesd, ODAR's production, quota driven work environment results in a garbage in/ garbage out work product with decisions frequently coming back on remand creating a never-ending caseload. Quality is, and has always been a mere afterthought, while quantity is always rewarded.

Management's recent alleged emphasis on quality over quantity is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Thus, there is no incentive for ODAR employees to concentrate on quality of their work because quantity, as always, is the only thing ever rewarded, eg, garbage in/ garbage out.

Anonymous said...

Come on, now. Social Security claimant's representatives are all that is wrong with the system. They shouldn't make any money doing what they do. They should just do it out of the goodness of their own heart.

When you look at the pay rates of some ODARs (Anchorage, AK; Chicago NHC; Cleveland, OH), it isn't economically feasible to represent clients at the hearing level. If denied by DDS, you may as well just withdraw, as what will happen at the hearing is merely a foregone conclusion.

Anonymous said...

@9:50 "And yet SSA employees haven't had a cost-of-living adjustment in more than five years."

How exactly has their cost of living gone up? I, for one, could certainly live with the 6K for awhile longer. But if my office is now doing a larger and larger percentage of work prior done by the agency, filing the entire initial application, ordering records for DDS reps who can't, chasing down the clients money from the payment center when SSA will not...., why should that fee stay the same ? An increase should reflect the increasing work shifted to the reps these days as SSA does less and less. Currently, the fee may only be assessed on back pay through the date of the hearing, but the attorney's obligation does not end until we case through the the backend hurdles to payment (Worker's Comp, Rep payee, SSI interviews, etc) We put hours into these issues. A fee increase would take the sting out of that.

Tim said...

SSA should pay the rep's fee, instead of taking it from the claimant. This would encourage SSA to make the correct decision sooner, rather than later! Too many people want to treat this like a court case, where you can deny on some technicality. This should really be about determining whether a claimant is disabled or not!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dan, social security disability is very profitable when based on volume. Unfortunately, ALJs have to waste precious time on these meritless volume cases.

Anonymous said...

@2:44,

I've lost many cases that I thought were slam dunks, and I've won cases I did not think I would. I've discovered that there is almost no way to predict whether you will win or lose a case until you know who the judge is.

TruthBtold said...

You make no sense. If the volume cases are meritless then how does the rep make any money?

Douglas Greene said...

Actually, I just left SSA in January to start a private practice, although I'm not exclusively doing social security. So now you've heard of one in ten years. By the way, Mr. Hall, I love your blog and have been following it for years.

Anonymous said...

I know several Judges that have retired and are now representing claimants.

Anonymous said...

If there is no profit than why are the majority of initial claims as well as appeals now filed by reps? New outfits coming on board everyday. This is big business and big money. Claimants are lured in by advertising, which costs big money. Who are you folks trying to kid?

Anonymous said...

What bothers me is that if there is going to be a maximum fee, then there should be a minimum fee. Often we win a case with an amended onset date that drastically reduces or even eliminates the accrued.

Anonymous said...

11:13 AM,

Who's footing the bill under your plan?

J.P. said...

Work comp fees are 15% in CA. No one would waste time representing disabled claimants in SSD cases for 15%. The thing is that even though fee percentage is lower in WC, you have higher settlement amounts. My boss made a $112,000 WC attorney fee 2 months ago (rare, but it happens once in a while). That never happens in SSD. Also, in WC you get to bill the defendant $400 an hour for time spent on Depos. Attorneys also make way more money on Personal Injury cases too. In CA, by law, the attorney fee comes straight off the top (usually 33%), while lien claimants are limited by law to 1/3 of the net amount due to the client. SSD practice may not be as profitable, but it's still important and Charles' point is spot on.

Anonymous said...

IF WC attorneys in CA would go after penalties, they would make a lot more than just the 15%, boo hoo, cry me a river(out of the claimants' pithy settlement) That would help insure and increase the injured their disability ratings rather then the WC attorneys dragging litigation on the clients WC cases for years. And there wouldn't be a need to have twice as many WC clients and all the while the injured get to wait for years for their measly settlements. How much do some of these WC attorneys get to get two bites of the apple? Social Security & WC? Social Security gets to these clients first and many years later comes the outrageously miniscule WC settlements, A scam by WC attorneys because the WC claimant gets an offset because they are injured workers & more often than not, the WC attorneys don't use the total disability by the SS to get the injured/disabled workers their rightful WC benefits. Soak the public funded programs that the injured/disabled paid into in the first place. The fact that the rare 112,000 settlement was a rare case proves my point.

Then this all gives the employers a big break on not paying out on all of the comp benefits & not on SS because as usual most of the injured here in CA get SSI rather than SSDI. But It is still state & federal tax payer money on which many employers don't pay either.
Such a DEAL!
Why are there so many injured workers anyway? It's a living for parasites, called worker comp attorneys & unions. A match made in hell.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:28

you're bellyaching about more things reps are doing now that the Agency used to, but if you stop, take a deep breath and step back, and look at those things again, they are all things a representative would/should be doing for their clients in literally pretty much every other legal scenario ever. Jeez Louise, if you want SSA to do so much (and we always have the burden of complete record, etc. even when a claimant is represented), why are you here and getting paid at all?