A fee agreement is a written statement signed by the claimant and his or 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 the Social Security Administration (SSA). For SSA to approve a fee agreement, the representative must submit it before the date of the first favorable determination or decision SSA makes on a claim after the representative’s appointment. If the representative does not submit a fee agreement by that date, SSA assumes the representative either will file a fee petition or waive a fee.
If the representative submits a fee agreement before the date SSA makes a favorable decision, SSA will approve the fee agreement at the time of the favorable decision if the statutory conditions for approval are met and no exceptions to the fee agreement process apply. Once SSA approves the fee agreement, the fee specified in the agreement is the maximum fee the representative may charge and collect for all services in the claim.
A fee petition is a written statement signed by a claimant’s representative requesting the fee the representative wants to charge and collect for services he or she provided in pursuing the claimant’s benefit rights in proceedings before the Social Security Administration (SSA).
SSA presumes that the representative will either file a fee petition or waive his or her fee if the representative does not file a fee agreement before the date SSA makes the first favorable determination or decision. A representative who elects to use the fee petition process generally files the petition after his or her services in the case have ended. Based on this petition, SSA will authorize a reasonable fee for the specific services provided.
The fee agreement and fee petition process are not interchangeable. However, if a representative elects the fee agreement process but SSA does not approve the agreement, or if an SSA reviewing official upholds a disapproval of a fee agreement on administrative review, the representative must file a fee petition if he or she wants to charge and collect a fee for their services.
The Social Security Act and SSA regulations prohibit representatives from charging or collecting any fee for representational services that SSA has not authorized, or that is more than the maximum amount SSA authorized. Any representative found to have charged or collected an unauthorized fee may be suspended or disqualified from practice before SSA and will be barred from appearing before SSA until full restitution is made. The representative also is subject to fines and imprisonment