The programs offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) are designed to help you when disability and aging make it hard or impossible to support yourself in any other way. Unfortunately, it can be surprisingly difficult to get your Social Security request approved, even after multiple attempts. Hiring a lawyer who specializes in these kind of cases can make all the difference. Yet there's still a chance your representation may not offer you as much help as you need. If you feel let down by your current Social Security lawyer, find out what you can do to change representation.
Your Rights as a Claimant
As a claimant with the SSA, you retain all rights to begin and end representation by a lawyer at your choice. No contract can prevent you from ending your agreement with your current lawyer and finding a new one. However, this doesn't mean that the process is all that easy or quick. There are a few steps necessary to make a change, and the steps are the same whether you want to hire a new lawyer to replace the old one or you wish to try representing yourself instead.
Your Fee Agreement
First, check the contract you signed with the lawyer. Ignore any parts that may try to revoke your ability to end representation and instead focus on the fee agreement. Most lawyers are only paid after you are approved for Social Security benefits or after you drop your claim. By ending your relationship with a lawyer, you may trigger stipulations in the contract that would result in you paying fees for the time they've spent on your case. Even if you don't have to pay them out of pocket, they are likely to bill the SSA for the time they've already worked for you. This reduces the amount of pay any attorney representing you in the future can earn by helping you succeed in your claim.
Your Notification of Intent
After you've checked the fee agreement and feel comfortable with what it says, you can move ahead with changing legal services by filing two certified letters stating your intent to discontinue using your current representation. Send one to the lawyer you're not longer working with and send the other to the SSA. In your letter to the lawyer, make sure you specifically state that you wish for them to file a letter of withdrawal with the SSA so your claim can be updated properly. After you've received confirmation that both the certified letter and the letter of withdrawal from your former attorney have arrived and been accepted, you can have your new representation fill out the paperwork and send in a fee agreement with the SSA.
Your Next Representation
Before deciding to embark on the challenge of switching legal services in the middle of a Social Security claim, you should know that it is not always easy to find an attorney willing to act as a second representative. If you've already gone through two different attorneys, the chances are even smaller of finding someone willing to be your third. This is because of the claims that the attorneys are allowed to file with the SSA to be compensated for the work they put into your case before being dismissed. Each new attorney added to the claim lowers the total amount of back pay available as a fee when your claim is approved. Many attorneys are only interested in being the first and sole representative on a claim and will not agree to an arrangement that makes them a second or third. Check what your options for secondary representation are before moving ahead with your plans to cancel your current agreement.