I practice Social Security law in Springfield, IL. The Office of Disability Adjudication & Review here is about 700 days backlogged. Each office is different but the cases are moving faster with the implementation of video links for hearings. Every attorney who I know, tells their clients the same thing -- the wait is long and we wish we could do something about it. Sometimes we encourage our clients to contact the office of their US Senator. That can help when the evidence is overwhelming and our two senators from Illinois have been strong advocates for rights of vetwerans.
We advise our clients that they may be able to get their own records faster (and without charge) from their doctors than we can. SSA regulations allow practitioners to charge clients for medical records if the provider charges them -- and beleive me they can and do charge us. Many of our clients have fiels that are 6-12 inches thick of medical records.
We tell our clients that they should focus on what problems will qualify them for disability. Most people here in the midwest have asthma and while it is an ailment that can qualify individuals for disability most peopel are nto that severe. We review the records and specifically concentrate on ordering medical records that relate to the ailments that will qualify someone for disability.
SSA Regulations control how much a lawyer (or representative) may charge -- if it is by fee agreement the fee is limited to 24% or $5,300. Whichever is lesser. If the representative is operating by a fee petition (there is a difference) the fee can be higher. There cannot be two representatives being paid via a fee agreement. This is the way most reprsentatives (and lawyers) operate. The first lawyer would need to withdraw his or her representation of you before the other lawyer could get paid -- if they did not then both lawyers could petition the Judge to determine their fees.
There are only a limited number of lawyers who practice in this area -- you might want to contact the lawyer (or his staff) and talk to them about your concerns. Unfortunately the lawyer is limited in their ability to "force" the judge to have an eariler hearing.
There are two organizations that you might want to check out:
National Organizations of Social Security Claimants & Representatives (NOSSCR
National Association of Disabilty Representatives (NADR)
These are the two main organizations of which practicing social security attorneys/representatives belong. We belong to both and they operate a referral service. Your attorney is probably a member of those organizations.
The advice I would give you is that Social Security is a long and tiresome process -- there are a lot of hurdles and obstacles. You need to be qualified work wise to draw Social Security Disability (Title II benefits). You have got to be medically disabled and impoverished to draw Supplemental Social Security Income (Title Sixteen benefits). A qualified practitioner will help you develop the medical record and advise you as your case progresses, but many times it is a "wait and see" process. There are only a limited number of Social Security judges and they are operating behind schedule.
Hopefully this advice is helpful -- no, you may not have to pay the first lawyer if you change lawyers, but you may not need (and it might not be in your best interest) to change lawyers. Find out how far the backlog of cases are and that might give you an idea of how far out your hearing might be.
We often submit Motions for On the Record Rulings when the medical evidence is strong enough -- there are also "Dire Need" circumstances which can cause a hearing to be expedited. That is where a client's doctor says they might die; there are financial hardships; domestic violence, etc.
Talk to your lawyer first. Then decide on your next course of action.