42 U.S.C. § 406 : US Code - Section 406: Representation of claimants before Commissioner

    (a) Recognition of representatives; fees for representation before
      Commissioner
      (1) The Commissioner of Social Security may prescribe rules and
    regulations governing the recognition of agents or other persons,
    other than attorneys as hereinafter provided, representing
    claimants before the Commissioner of Social Security, and may
    require of such agents or other persons, before being recognized as
    representatives of claimants that they shall show that they are of
    good character and in good repute, possessed of the necessary
    qualifications to enable them to render such claimants valuable
    service, and otherwise competent to advise and assist such
    claimants in the presentation of their cases. An attorney in good
    standing who is admitted to practice before the highest court of
    the State, Territory, District, or insular possession of his
    residence or before the Supreme Court of the United States or the
    inferior Federal courts, shall be entitled to represent claimants
    before the Commissioner of Social Security. Notwithstanding the
    preceding sentences, the Commissioner, after due notice and
    opportunity for hearing, (A) may refuse to recognize as a
    representative, and may disqualify a representative already
    recognized, any attorney who has been disbarred or suspended from
    any court or bar to which he or she was previously admitted to
    practice or who has been disqualified from participating in or
    appearing before any Federal program or agency, and (B) may refuse
    to recognize, and may disqualify, as a non-attorney representative
    any attorney who has been disbarred or suspended from any court or
    bar to which he or she was previously admitted to practice. A
    representative who has been disqualified or suspended pursuant to
    this section from appearing before the Social Security
    Administration as a result of collecting or receiving a fee in
    excess of the amount authorized shall be barred from appearing
    before the Social Security Administration as a representative until
    full restitution is made to the claimant and, thereafter, may be
    considered for reinstatement only under such rules as the
    Commissioner may prescribe. The Commissioner of Social Security
    may, after due notice and opportunity for hearing, suspend or
    prohibit from further practice before the Commissioner any such
    person, agent, or attorney who refuses to comply with the
    Commissioner's rules and regulations or who violates any provision
    of this section for which a penalty is prescribed. The Commissioner
    of Social Security may, by rule and regulation, prescribe the
    maximum fees which may be charged for services performed in
    connection with any claim before the Commissioner of Social
    Security under this subchapter, and any agreement in violation of
    such rules and regulations shall be void. Except as provided in
    paragraph (2)(A), whenever the Commissioner of Social Security, in
    any claim before the Commissioner for benefits under this
    subchapter, makes a determination favorable to the claimant, the
    Commissioner shall, if the claimant was represented by an attorney
    in connection with such claim, fix (in accordance with the
    regulations prescribed pursuant to the preceding sentence) a
    reasonable fee to compensate such attorney for the services
    performed by him in connection with such claim.
      (2)(A) In the case of a claim of entitlement to past-due benefits
    under this subchapter, if - 
        (i) an agreement between the claimant and another person
      regarding any fee to be recovered by such person to compensate
      such person for services with respect to the claim is presented
      in writing to the Commissioner of Social Security prior to the
      time of the Commissioner's determination regarding the claim,
        (ii) the fee specified in the agreement does not exceed the
      lesser of - 
          (I) 25 percent of the total amount of such past-due benefits
        (as determined before any applicable reduction under section
        1320a-6(a) of this title), or
          (II) $4,000, and

        (iii) the determination is favorable to the claimant,

    then the Commissioner of Social Security shall approve that
    agreement at the time of the favorable determination, and (subject
    to paragraph (3)) the fee specified in the agreement shall be the
    maximum fee. The Commissioner of Social Security may from time to
    time increase the dollar amount under clause (ii)(II) to the extent
    that the rate of increase in such amount, as determined over the
    period since January 1, 1991, does not at any time exceed the rate
    of increase in primary insurance amounts under section 415(i) of
    this title since such date. The Commissioner of Social Security
    shall publish any such increased amount in the Federal Register.
      (B) For purposes of this subsection, the term "past-due benefits"
    excludes any benefits with respect to which payment has been
    continued pursuant to subsection (g) or (h) of section 423 of this
    title.
      (C) In any case involving - 
        (i) an agreement described in subparagraph (A) with any person
      relating to both a claim of entitlement to past-due benefits
      under this subchapter and a claim of entitlement to past-due
      benefits under subchapter XVI of this chapter, and
        (ii) a favorable determination made by the Commissioner of
      Social Security with respect to both such claims,

    the Commissioner of Social Security may approve such agreement only
    if the total fee or fees specified in such agreement does not
    exceed, in the aggregate, the dollar amount in effect under
    subparagraph (A)(ii)(II).
      (D) In the case of a claim with respect to which the Commissioner
    of Social Security has approved an agreement pursuant to
    subparagraph (A), the Commissioner of Social Security shall provide
    the claimant and the person representing the claimant a written
    notice of - 
        (i) the dollar amount of the past-due benefits (as determined
      before any applicable reduction under section 1320a-6(a) of this
      title) and the dollar amount of the past-due benefits payable to
      the claimant,
        (ii) the dollar amount of the maximum fee which may be charged
      or recovered as determined under this paragraph, and
        (iii) a description of the procedures for review under
      paragraph (3).

      (3)(A) The Commissioner of Social Security shall provide by
    regulation for review of the amount which would otherwise be the
    maximum fee as determined under paragraph (2) if, within 15 days
    after receipt of the notice provided pursuant to paragraph (2)(D) -
    
        (i) the claimant, or the administrative law judge or other
      adjudicator who made the favorable determination, submits a
      written request to the Commissioner of Social Security to reduce
      the maximum fee, or
        (ii) the person representing the claimant submits a written
      request to the Commissioner of Social Security to increase the
      maximum fee.

    Any such review shall be conducted after providing the claimant,
    the person representing the claimant, and the adjudicator with
    reasonable notice of such request and an opportunity to submit
    written information in favor of or in opposition to such request.
    The adjudicator may request the Commissioner of Social Security to
    reduce the maximum fee only on the basis of evidence of the failure
    of the person representing the claimant to represent adequately the
    claimant's interest or on the basis of evidence that the fee is
    clearly excessive for services rendered.
      (B)(i) In the case of a request for review under subparagraph (A)
    by the claimant or by the person representing the claimant, such
    review shall be conducted by the administrative law judge who made
    the favorable determination or, if the Commissioner of Social
    Security determines that such administrative law judge is
    unavailable or if the determination was not made by an
    administrative law judge, such review shall be conducted by another
    person designated by the Commissioner of Social Security for such
    purpose.
      (ii) In the case of a request by the adjudicator for review under
    subparagraph (A), the review shall be conducted by the Commissioner
    of Social Security or by an administrative law judge or other
    person (other than such adjudicator) who is designated by the
    Commissioner of Social Security.
      (C) Upon completion of the review, the administrative law judge
    or other person conducting the review shall affirm or modify the
    amount which would otherwise be the maximum fee. Any such amount so
    affirmed or modified shall be considered the amount of the maximum
    fee which may be recovered under paragraph (2). The decision of the
    administrative law judge or other person conducting the review
    shall not be subject to further review.
      (4) Subject to subsection (d) of this section, if the claimant is
    determined to be entitled to past-due benefits under this
    subchapter and the person representing the claimant is an attorney,
    the Commissioner of Social Security shall, notwithstanding section
    405(i) of this title, certify for payment out of such past-due
    benefits (as determined before any applicable reduction under
    section 1320a-6(a) of this title) to such attorney an amount equal
    to so much of the maximum fee as does not exceed 25 percent of such
    past-due benefits (as determined before any applicable reduction
    under section 1320a-6(a) of this title).
      (5) Any person who shall, with intent to defraud, in any manner
    willfully and knowingly deceive, mislead, or threaten any claimant
    or prospective claimant or beneficiary under this subchapter by
    word, circular, letter or advertisement, or who shall knowingly
    charge or collect directly or indirectly any fee in excess of the
    maximum fee, or make any agreement directly or indirectly to charge
    or collect any fee in excess of the maximum fee, prescribed by the
    Commissioner of Social Security shall be deemed guilty of a
    misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall for each offense be
    punished by a fine not exceeding $500 or by imprisonment not
    exceeding one year, or both. The Commissioner of Social Security
    shall maintain in the electronic information retrieval system used
    by the Social Security Administration a current record, with
    respect to any claimant before the Commissioner of Social Security,
    of the identity of any person representing such claimant in
    accordance with this subsection.
    (b) Fees for representation before court
      (1)(A) Whenever a court renders a judgment favorable to a
    claimant under this subchapter who was represented before the court
    by an attorney, the court may determine and allow as part of its
    judgment a reasonable fee for such representation, not in excess of
    25 percent of the total of the past-due benefits to which the
    claimant is entitled by reason of such judgment, and the
    Commissioner of Social Security may, notwithstanding the provisions
    of section 405(i) of this title, but subject to subsection (d) of
    this section, certify the amount of such fee for payment to such
    attorney out of, and not in addition to, the amount of such past-
    due benefits. In case of any such judgment, no other fee may be
    payable or certified for payment for such representation except as
    provided in this paragraph.
      (B) For purposes of this paragraph - 
        (i) the term "past-due benefits" excludes any benefits with
      respect to which payment has been continued pursuant to
      subsection (g) or (h) of section 423 of this title, and
        (ii) amounts of past-due benefits shall be determined before
      any applicable reduction under section 1320a-6(a) of this title.

      (2) Any attorney who charges, demands, receives, or collects for
    services rendered in connection with proceedings before a court to
    which paragraph (1) of this subsection is applicable any amount in
    excess of that allowed by the court thereunder shall be guilty of a
    misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be subject to a fine
    of not more than $500, or imprisonment for not more than one year,
    or both.
    (c) Notification of options for obtaining attorneys
      The Commissioner of Social Security shall notify each claimant in
    writing, together with the notice to such claimant of an adverse
    determination, of the options for obtaining attorneys to represent
    individuals in presenting their cases before the Commissioner of
    Social Security. Such notification shall also advise the claimant
    of the availability to qualifying claimants of legal services
    organizations which provide legal services free of charge.
    (d) Assessment on attorneys
      (1) In general
        Whenever a fee for services is required to be certified for
      payment to an attorney from a claimant's past-due benefits
      pursuant to subsection (a)(4) or (b)(1) of this section, the
      Commissioner shall impose on the attorney an assessment
      calculated in accordance with paragraph (2).
      (2) Amount
        (A) The amount of an assessment under paragraph (1) shall be
      equal to the product obtained by multiplying the amount of the
      representative's fee that would be required to be so certified by
      subsection (a)(4) or (b)(1) of this section before the
      application of this subsection, by the percentage specified in
      subparagraph (B), except that the maximum amount of the
      assessment may not exceed the greater of $75 or the adjusted
      amount as provided pursuant to the following two sentences. In
      the case of any calendar year beginning after the amendments made
      by section 301 of the Social Security Protection Act of 2003 (!1)
      take effect, the dollar amount specified in the preceding
      sentence (including a previously adjusted amount) shall be
      adjusted annually under the procedures used to adjust benefit
      amounts under section 415(i)(2)(A)(ii) of this title, except such
      adjustment shall be based on the higher of $75 or the previously
      adjusted amount that would have been in effect for December of
      the preceding year, but for the rounding of such amount pursuant
      to the following sentence. Any amount so adjusted that is not a
      multiple of $1 shall be rounded to the next lowest multiple of
      $1, but in no case less than $75.

        (B) The percentage specified in this subparagraph is - 
          (i) for calendar years before 2001, 6.3 percent, and
          (ii) for calendar years after 2000, such percentage rate as
        the Commissioner determines is necessary in order to achieve
        full recovery of the costs of determining and certifying fees
        to attorneys from the past-due benefits of claimants, but not
        in excess of 6.3 percent.
      (3) Collection
        The Commissioner may collect the assessment imposed on an
      attorney under paragraph (1) by offset from the amount of the fee
      otherwise required by subsection (a)(4) or (b)(1) of this section
      to be certified for payment to the attorney from a claimant's
      past-due benefits.
      (4) Prohibition on claimant reimbursement
        An attorney subject to an assessment under paragraph (1) may
      not, directly or indirectly, request or otherwise obtain
      reimbursement for such assessment from the claimant whose claim
      gave rise to the assessment.
      (5) Disposition of assessments
        Assessments on attorneys collected under this subsection shall
      be credited to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust
      Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, as
      appropriate.
      (6) Authorization of appropriations
        The assessments authorized under this section shall be
      collected and available for obligation only to the extent and in
      the amount provided in advance in appropriations Acts. Amounts so
      appropriated are authorized to remain available until expended,
      for administrative expenses in carrying out this subchapter and
      related laws.
    (e) Extension of fee withholding and assessment procedures to
      qualified non-attorney representatives
      (1) The Commissioner shall provide for the extension of the fee
    withholding procedures and assessment procedures that apply under
    the preceding provisions of this section to agents and other
    persons, other than attorneys, who represent claimants under this
    subchapter before the Commissioner.
      (2) Fee-withholding procedures may be extended under paragraph
    (1) to any nonattorney (!2) representative only if such
    representative meets at least the following prerequisites:

        (A) The representative has been awarded a bachelor's degree
      from an accredited institution of higher education, or has been
      determined by the Commissioner to have equivalent qualifications
      derived from training and work experience.
        (B) The representative has passed an examination, written and
      administered by the Commissioner, which tests knowledge of the
      relevant provisions of this chapter and the most recent
      developments in agency and court decisions affecting this
      subchapter and subchapter XVI.
        (C) The representative has secured professional liability
      insurance, or equivalent insurance, which the Commissioner has
      determined to be adequate to protect claimants in the event of
      malpractice by the representative.
        (D) The representative has undergone a criminal background
      check to ensure the representative's fitness to practice before
      the Commissioner.
        (E) The representative demonstrates ongoing completion of
      qualified courses of continuing education, including education
      regarding ethics and professional conduct, which are designed to
      enhance professional knowledge in matters related to entitlement
      to, or eligibility for, benefits based on disability under this
      subchapter and subchapter XVI. Such continuing education, and the
      instructors providing such education, shall meet such standards
      as the Commissioner may prescribe.

      (3)(A) The Commissioner may assess representatives reasonable
    fees to cover the cost to the Social Security Administration of
    administering the prerequisites described in paragraph (2).
      (B) Fees collected under subparagraph (A) shall be credited to
    the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the
    Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, or deposited as
    miscellaneous receipts in the general fund of the Treasury, based
    on such allocations as the Commissioner determines appropriate.
      (C) The fees authorized under this paragraph shall be collected
    and available for obligation only to the extent and in the amount
    provided in advance in appropriations Acts. Amounts so appropriated
    are authorized to remain available until expended for administering
    the prerequisites described in paragraph (2).