Individuals with disabilities who are living in California may find working to be difficult, if not impossible. For those who qualify, applying for Social Security Disability benefits is an option.

Because Social Security benefits programs are administered by the federal government and have strict qualification requirements, the application process can be lengthy and challenging. Many legitimate claims are denied on the first application attempt, and there may be a need for several reconsiderations or appeals before benefits are finally granted.

Completing an application, attending required exams and interviews, and filing appeals can be an exhausting, particularly for people living with chronic illnesses and disabilities. One option is to seek assistance from a professional during the application process. These professionals, known as claimants’ representatives, can help compile documentation, assist with filling out forms, and represent an applicant during hearings.

Attorneys can serve as representatives. It should be noted, however, that the fees charged by a representative are established by the Social Security Administration. This means that opting for a non-lawyer representative doesn’t offer an applicant any real financial benefits.

Because benefits are paid retroactively from the time that someone first becomes disabled, a lump sum is typically given to an applicant once benefits have been approved. The law allows representatives to receive, on a contingency basis, up to 25 percent of these retroactive benefits, with the amount capped at $6000. Applicants may also be responsible for incidental administrative costs; though these are typically not high. Individuals considering applying for Social Security Disability may benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney.