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.
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