An attorney can charge by the hour or by contingent fee agreement. Some expect payment regardless of the outcome. I charge by contingent fee ( I only get a fee if I win the claim) and I use what Social Security calls a Standard Form Fee Agreement that sets my fee at 25% of a claimant’s past due benefits not to exceed $6,000.00 no matter how large the amount of past due benefits awarded. Past due benefits are those benefits earned from the date your disability began through the date of a favorable decision on your claim. Standard form fee agreements are encouraged by SSA and in most cases, where there has been a favorable decision, approved almost automatically. In all cases a representative’s fee must be approved by SSA before it is paid.
But what if you can’t afford an attorney? If your case has merit this is usually not a problem as long as there is the potential for a decision resulting in past due benefits.
A claim with the potential for a year or more of past due benefits is usually sufficient to generate a reasonable fee for an attorney working on a contingent fee agreement.