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Need to change attorneys for your Social Security disability case?

It's a reality for any personal relationship, sometimes they just don't work out and it's time to move on.

The same could be said for attorney-client relationships as well. For some reason, and it may just be character conflicts, the attorney and the client do not see eye to eye.

But, before you change representatives, you may give this a quick thought.

If you have hired an attorney from the beginning of your case, there is not much he or she can do as it moves through the Social Security disability assembly line. He or she can help discuss matters with your case manager at DDS, and can make sure all forms are completed correctly and on time, but other than waiting in line with you, there is not much more he or she can do.

But, if you do decide to fire your attorney and hire a new one, here is what to expect:

The new attorney will likely ask you to retrieve a letter from your prior attorney stating just two things: (1) that he or she withdrawals his or her representation, and (2) he or she waives any rights to any fees.

Social Security will only pay attorneys if they are successful on your case. This is called a contingency contract between you and your attorney. If you are approved for benefits, and there is backpay, then SSA will divide the monies between you two, awarding the attorney 25% and you 75%. This amount payable to the attorney is allowed up to a maximum of $6,000.

So, as you can see, if your prior attorney refuses to withdrawal his or her right to any fees, it leaves the new attorney having to split fees with someone else. And, to be honest, sometimes SSA will not pay either one because the Administration is unsure of how much each earned. So, it can get messy and any attorney that has practiced within the Social Security system has been burned at least once by this exact situation.

So, what is the moral to the story here?

  1. Choose wisely. Set expectations with your attorney early or at least have him or her inform you on what you can expect with his or her representation. It's best to get it all out in the open before moving forward.

  2. Be realistic about the process, especially at the initial application phase and the reconsideration. If you are denied twice, you are allowed a hearing. It's at this point you have more contact with your attorney than at the beginning.

  3. Be patient. This can be a very long process. A good attorney will contact you when he or she knows something. Calling them everyday just to see if they've "heard anything," is not going to make your case go any faster. Also remember, most Social Security disability attorneys have many many clients, and it's hard to be in constant communication with everyone.

  4. Be an advocate for yourself. Help your attorney with things he or she needs. For example, if records are needed from a particular doctor, call the office and make sure records are going to be sent.

  5. Be realistic. Many people who deserve Social Security disability get denied. And, some people who don't deserve benefits, slip though the system and get approved. The system is often slow and overwhelmed. Be prepared for long periods of time to go by without anything happening on your case.

  6. Do your part. When it's time to sign paperwork sent to you by SSA, do so promptly and mail it back in. Don't procrastinate when its time to complete reports needed for your case.

If all else fails and you gotta fire that guy, then make sure you get a letter of withdrawal and a waiver of fees. Then make a good choice for a replacement if you feel one is appropriate.

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