Should I Seek Out Government Benefits Lawyers?
This information on Social Security and Medicaid was provided by Hickman & Lowder, a member of the Taliant Council and a firm that focuses much of its practice on preserving government benefits. What can such a firm provide to injured persons and their attorneys? We asked Hickman & Lowder; here's what they had to say.
With technological innovations, the "practice of law" within the confines of state lines is less starkly defined. Depending on the type of assistance you or your attorney want, Hickman & Lowder, based in Cleveland, Ohio, might be able to assist you. They might
- represent you,
- consult with your attorney, or
- refer you or your attorney to a similar firm in your area.
If you want Hickman & Lowder to act for you, they must determine what the rules are in your state, and before that agency or court.
For example, filing documents in probate court or a Medicaid agency in a state may be considered "practicing law" in that state. In such a case, Hickman & Lowder might be able to obtain and complete the forms and file them by mail, but that might not be the best way to proceed. You may well be able to go back to the agency yourself after consulting with Hickman & Lowder by phone or e-mail, and submitting documents by fax or mail for their review.
Social Security is a federal program, so a practitioner who is licensed to practice law in any state can serve as your representative in dealings with Social Security. Social Security allows non-attorney representatives as well.
Hickman & Lowder might be able to review your case, gather evidence, and write letters to the agency on your behalf, while trying to obtain your benefits without going to a hearing. If your case reaches the Administrative Law Judge hearing stage, however, they would probably suggest that you find a local attorney, and help you locate one in your area. If the local attorney won at the hearing, Hickman & Lowder would request compensation for their research, evidence gathering, and other legal work.
Hickman & Lowder encourages claimants to send their questions and inquiries, but cautions that they cannot represent anyone with whom they have not reached a representation and fee agreement.
What About Legal Fees?
As always, legal documents must reflect individual circumstances. Sometimes unusual situations arise, requiring additional research or drafting. To give you a basic idea, Hickman & Lowder says special needs trusts typically run from $1500 to $5000. Medicaid planning, depending on whether it includes an application and any appeals, can run from an initial consult to full planning, ranging from $2500 to $4000.
Social Security cases are typically contingent on successfully obtaining past-due benefits (25% up to a cap of $4000), but sometimes involve work at an hourly rate.
Basic guardianships and certain other routine probate matters may be best handled by local counsel.
Advice on special education options for disabled students is also available at an hourly rate at Hickman & Lowder.
42 U.S.C. § 400 to 433 (DIB)
42 U.S.C. § 1381 to 1385 (SSI)
20 C.F.R. § 404.1 to 404.2127 (DIB)
20 C.F.R. § 416.101 to 416.2227 (SSI)
POMS, HALLEX, SSR's, etc.