I-1-2-11.Fee Agreements — General Policy
Last Update: 1/28/03 (Transmittal I-1-44)
The fee agreement process is one of the two processes a duly appointed attorney or non-attorney representative may use to charge and collect fees for services he/she provided to a claimant in proceedings before the Social Security Administration (SSA). If the representative elects to use the fee agreement process, the claimant or the representative(s) must submit the agreement to SSA before the date SSA makes the first favorable decision the representative worked toward achieving. At the hearing and Appeals Council levels of the administrative appeals process, the date SSA makes a favorable decision is the date shown on the notice of favorable decision. The ODAR decision maker should not approve or disapprove an agreement unless he/she issues a favorable decision. The decision maker should not approve or disapprove the agreement until the date the decision is signed, dated and mailed.
A fee agreement is a written statement, signed by the claimant and his/her appointed representative, specifying the fee the representative expects to charge and collect and the claimant expects to pay, for services the representative provides in pursuing the claimant's benefit rights in proceedings before SSA. Although the fee agreement must be a written statement, there is no statutorily prescribed language. Therefore, representatives may craft their own fee agreements and decision makers must approve an agreement if the statutory conditions of the fee agreement provisions are met and no exceptions apply. The fee agreement:
May be combined with the appointment of representative document.
Remains in effect (i.e., subject to SSA's approval or disapproval in connection with a favorable decision) throughout the administrative appeals process of a claim(s) and during the administrative proceedings following a court remand.
May contain a provision that limits its application to services through a specific level of the administrative appeals process. For example, the provision may state “This agreement applies only through the initial Administrative Law Judge hearing.” Such a provision would provide, in essence, for a two-tiered fee structure. Refer to I-1-2-15 for policy and procedures on two-tiered fee agreements.
May be amended, before the date of the favorable decision, to comply with the requirements of the fee agreement process.
To be approved under § 206(a)(2) of the Social Security Act, the fee agreement must meet the statutory conditions defined in I-1-2-12(A.). The fee agreement will be excepted from the fee agreement process if one of the exceptions listed in I-1-2-12(B.) applies. If a decision maker disapproves the fee agreement and (if applicable) SSA upholds the disapproval of the agreement on administrative review, the representative must file a fee petition if he/she wants to charge and collect a fee.
If a decision maker approves a fee agreement in connection with a favorable decision, but the favorable decision is later vacated, the approval of the fee agreement and any authorization of fees under the agreement are vacated as well because there is no favorable decision. If a decision maker subsequently again issues a favorable decision, he/she will approve or disapprove the fee agreement.