Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Get a Good Disability Attorney or Disability Representative

My wife, like me, is a former disability examiner for social security. However, she's also a CR (claims rep) at a social security field office. Today, we were discussing the fact that a former colleague of hers who had retired from social security as a claims rep and started "repping" (representing social security disability and SSI claimants) cases...had ceased work as a rep and had gone into a new line of work.

When I heard the news, I had several thoughts. The first was "I'm not surprised". That was followed up by (and this may sound a little a mean but I have my reasons for saying it) "Thank goodness she won't be handling any more cases for claimants".

Now, regarding my first thought ("I'm not surprised"), why did I have it? Here's why. I don't think that this individual realized that being a field office CR does not necessarily impart any specific knowledge as to how the disability system works. She probably thought to herself (as a lot people who go to social security offices to file claims may likewise think), "I work for social security and I take disability claims every day. I know all I need to know about representing claimants".

Nope. The truth is, despite the fact that CRs at social security offices are the individuals who take disability applications, they know very very little about the social security disability process. Why? Because they simply take the application and put it into the system. For the case to be medically decided, it is sent off to a disability examiner who will gather the records and make a disability determination on the case.

My own belief is that this individual found that she didn't know nearly as much as she thought about SSD and SSI. And she was probably a bit intimidated by this fact.

Now, regarding my second thought ("Thank goodness she won't be handling any more cases for claimants"), I think it is fairly likely that she provided less than optimal representation simply because she had never worked on a case before. In other words, she had never been in the position of having to learn why a case should be approved and how it gets approved.

So, the point of this post? When you get representation, don't be afraid to ask about your attorney's background, or your disability representative's background. After all, it's your case and your future that is at stake.

My personal preference, of course, is that you should be represented by either an attorney who does nothing but disability cases (you want a specialist, not a generalist) OR a non-attorney disability representative who is a former disability examiner.

Now, having said that, let me say that there are dozens of excellent non-attorney disability representatives who do a wonderful job of winning disability cases who are not former examiners. And many of them do a better job than many attorneys.

So, when it comes to choosing representation, simply exercise some discretion and be a little discerning. And don't be afraid to ask about your "potential" advocate's background.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

Other Posts

How long does it take to get a social security disability hearing?
How long does it take to get a social security hearing scheduled?
Social Security Disability List of Impairments


Blogger Jacquie said...

Hi: My wife have a hearing on June 17, 2009, that means 10 day from today. Her conditions (Cronic depression, bipolar, post traumatic disorder after her son 19years old commit suicide- bipolar also) Well we was waiting for the hearing for a year & a half, she HAD an attorney for this period of time, the problem is that last week he told us, he will not represent my wife at her hearing (nice and very proffessional, ah?) and now we are VERY LOST, we don;t know what to do, where can we find a non attorney representative in this small time frame. Does we have to send the updated records to the court by ourself & how? What is our next step? where can we find help? Sould we try to get the rfc form filled by her psychiatry or mental institution? We already have all the records, cd, ect...If she is denied what can we do after the denial? Please help, we need advise ASAP
You can email us at JALU10@AOL.COM
Thanks in advance

11:56 AM  
Blogger Disability Blogger said...

This is indeed a bad situation, however this practice is all too common among some disability representatives, attorney and non-attorney. Unfortunately, many disability applicants do not know their representative has decided not to represent them until the day of the hearing. So what can you and your wife do? Well I would certainly get busy and contact some other representatives or attorneys to get some kind of representation. In most cases, it should not be that difficult to find someone who is willing to take care of your hearing. I would try to get any information that I could from her psychiatrist and mental institutions that care for her, so that my new representative would have as much information as possible prior to my hearing. This may allow the prospective new representative to make a judgment call as to whether or not they can take the case before they can actually view the full disability file. If you are unable to get representation on such short notice, however, I would go to the hearing and as the administrative law judge for a continuance/rescheduled hearing so that I could get representation. And most ALJs (administrative law judges) will have no problem in giving you rescheduling for this purpose). If your wife's disability claim is denied, you or your representative should file an appeal council review request simultaneously with a new initial disability claim. Social Security allows a new claim to be filed because there are very few appeal council disability allowances or remands (disability claims that are sent back to the deciding administrative law judge for a second review).

5:16 AM  

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