You may apply for SSDI benefits on your own, or you can hire a disability or SSDI representative to assist you in applying for or appealing a claim. Typically, there are two primary types of paid SSDI representation organizations. First, there are companies with trained specialists experienced in handling SSDI applications and appeals in some or any local community across the country. There also are law firms that usually specialize in disability related cases in a local community.
Most SSDI applicants—about 90 percent according to the SSA—have a disability representative for their appeal. An August 2010 report by the Office of Inspector General for the Social Security Administration indicated that many people submitting an initial disability application for SSDI might benefit from using a third-party disability representative when they first apply for benefits. It indicated that having a disability representative earlier in the process significantly improves the chances of those with four major types of disabilities getting approved for SSDI.
The fee that a representative can charge for SSDI representation is set by law. Currently, under the SSA’s fee agreement approval process, it is 25 percent of the retroactive dollar amount awarded, not to exceed $6,000. Some representatives may charge fees for costs related to the claim, such as photocopy and medical record collection expenses. If an SSDI applicant is approved quickly and does not receive a retroactive award, the SSA must review and approve the fee a representative will charge the individual. Disability representatives do not charge a fee if they are unsuccessful in obtaining a claimant’s disability benefit.
A representative may decline to represent you if, after reviewing your situation, they do not believe you are likely to meet the requirements for SSDI. Most representatives will provide this screening at no cost to you. Typical reasons individuals do not meet the requirements are: their disability is not severe enough or the applicant does not have a sufficient work history (and did not pay enough into FICA).