H.R. 4532: Social Security Disability Applicants Access to Professional Representation Act of 2010

H.R. 4532

Social Security Disability Applicants Access to Professional Representation Act of 2010

Date
February 3, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 4532 on Wednesday, February 3, 2010, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 4532 was introduced on January 27, 2010, by Rep. John Tanner (D-TN) and referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, which took no official action.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4532 would permanently extend fee withholding procedures which allow Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients to pay fees to lawyers and representatives in successful applications for benefits directly out of a claimant's benefits, such as SSI disability.

The legislation would set the criteria for an eligible non-attorney representative, including requirements that a representative have a bachelor's degree, pass an examination, have professional liability insurance, and undergo a criminal background check. In addition, the bill would allow the Social Security Commissioner to assess "reasonable fees" on recipients participating in the program.

The program, which was last extended in 2004, is set to expire on March 1, 2009.

Background

The practice of the Social Security Administration (SSA) paying representatives' (lawyers and non-lawyers) fees directly out of a claimant's benefits is known as "fee withholding."  Under the procedures, representatives of claimants can receive their due payment directly from the recipient's benefits in any successful Disability Insurance (DI) or SSI benefits case.  The program was created to provide greater access to federal disability benefits and was temporarily extended by the Social Security Protection Act of 2004.  According to the Ways and Means Committee, the program increases annual federal revenue by approximately $55 million because attorneys and non-attorneys pay a fee to participate in the program.  However, this does not include the cost associated with increased SSI or DI payments made by the SSA.  According to a 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, SSA paid about $82 billion in DI benefits to about 8.5 million workers in 2006.  In addition, the same report found that, "Fee withholding has increased the number of SSI claimants represented by attorneys, but has also complicated payments in certain SSI cases.  In some cases, representatives can now inappropriately receive more than the fee authorized by SSA."

 

Cost

A CBO score for H.R. 4532 was not yet available as of press time.