The Social Security Disability program experiences many challenges due to inflation. Inflation erodes the value of benefit payments to disabled workers. It also has eroded the value of the fees attorneys receive that assist claimants with their SSD applications, with appeals and any additional hearings that are necessary for them to secure their benefits.
In a letter to Social Security's Acting Commissioner, a group consisting of a large number of disability advocacy groups urged SSA to increase the representative fee cap on the reimbursement that attorneys receive for their services. The current cap of $6,000 was last increased in 2009, and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) suggests that it should be increased to $6,904.
They also suggest the creation of a mechanism to automatically increase this cap and ensure that it does not again become eroded by the incessant march of inflation.
The recommended increase is based on using the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) that SSA has used since 2009 to increase benefit payments. CCD argues that such an increase is necessary to because the SSD application process is "very complex."
They point out that the average processing time for an SSD claim is now 527 days and that reimbursement to attorneys after the claimant has been awarded benefits take additional time. This can make it difficult for many attorneys to accept the complex cases that are likely to take the most time, and whose claimants are most in need of experienced representation.
The complexities of the claims process mean that many disabled individuals must have assistance in order for their claim to be successful. It is important that an attorney who represents these individuals receive adequate compensation for their efforts, as it could lead to many attorneys no longer being able to afford to handle these cases.
Source: c-c-d.org, "Letter to Social Security Commissioner Colvin," Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), April 18, 2016