I-1-2-11.Fee Agreements — General Policy
Last Update: 7/22/16 (Transmittal I-1-86)
The fee agreement process is one of the two processes an appointed attorney or non-attorney representative may use to obtain authorization to charge and collect a fee for services he or she provided to a claimant in proceedings before the Social Security Administration (SSA). A fee agreement is a written statement, signed by the claimant and the appointed representative, specifying the fee that the representative expects to charge and collect, and that the claimant expects to pay for the representative's services before SSA. Although the fee agreement must be a written statement and meet certain statutory requirements to be approved, there is no prescribed language (i.e., a representative drafts his or her own fee agreement).
SSA has provided model fee agreement language on the public website that illustrates the type of fee agreement language that meets statutory requirements and is likely to be approved (assuming no exceptions to the fee agreement process apply).
When issuing a favorable decision, decision makers must approve an agreement if the statutory conditions under section 206(a)(2) of the Social Security Act are met and no exceptions apply. The conditions and exceptions are set forth in Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-1-2-12. A decision maker will take no action on a fee agreement if he or she is issuing an unfavorable decision or a dismissal order.
If a decision maker approves a fee agreement in connection with a favorable (fully or partially) decision, but SSA later takes an action that vacates the favorable decision, SSA also vacates the approval of the fee agreement and any authorization of fees under the fee agreement. If, after resolving the issue that resulted in the vacate action, SSA issues a favorable decision on the case, the decision maker will approve or disapprove the fee agreement based on the circumstances that exist as of the date of the new decision (even if adjudication is limited through the date of the prior decision).
A fee agreement:
May be combined with the appointment of representative document;
Remains in effect through the entire administrative appeals process and any administrative proceedings following a court remand, unless the fee agreement is amended or limited in application (see next bullet), or a fee is later waived;
May contain a provision that limits its application to services through a specific level of the administrative appeals process (otherwise known as a “two-tiered fee agreement,” as described in HALLEX I-1-2-15); and
May be amended before the date of the notice of a favorable decision.
For fee agreement evaluation policy, see HALLEX I-1-2-12.