A Message from Lew: How our Own Stephanie Burkland Changed The Way That the Social Security Administration Does Business!
Here at Insler & Hermann, we have found that winning a Social Security Disability claim is the result of dozens, if not hundreds, of separate action steps taken by our dedicated attorneys and staff. No one particular step is any more important than another, and there is usually no single thing that can be singled out as the reason a case is won. It’s the combination of everything we do that leads to favorable decisions.
Our work is not over when a favorable decision comes in, however. In fact, it is at that point that we do for our clients what I consider to be the single most important thing: review their award certificate, the document that explains their retroactive and ongoing payments and the attorney’s fee. Mistakes in that document are common, and a claimant who has never seen one before doesn’t know what to look for.
In our office, we take this review very seriously, and our entire staff is vigilant to catch mistakes made by the Social Security Administration. Recently Stephanie Burkland, our longest serving paralegal and a former Social Security employee, took that to heart and wound up causing Social Security to change what they do on a regional, if not a national basis!
If a claimant’s disability is found to have ended due to improvement in his or her medical condition, either based on the hearing decision or after the person has been approved and is receiving benefits, he or she is entitled to an additional two months of benefits after the month in which the improvement occurred.
Recently, in a short period of time we heard from three different clients who were in that situation. When the notices about the suspension of benefits came to our office, Stephanie found the same mistake in all three of our clients’ award certificates. In each case they had been paid through the month before the SSA determined they were able to go back to work, but no payment had been made for the extra three months!!
Using her contacts at Social Security, Stephanie alerted the management of the Payment Center that is responsible for most of our clients as to these mistakes, and called their attention to what appeared to be a systemic flaw in the way that benefits were being awarded. They were very appreciative and after checking into the problem, they let Stephanie know that they had instituted changes to make sure that all benefit analysts, many of whom are new to the job, knew of the provision ensuring that the additional three months would be paid in all closed period cases!!
Kudos to Stephanie for helping not only our clients but countless others to receive all the benefits to which they are entitled! As our Insler & Hermann Mission Statement says: we pursue claims vigorously, maximizing benefits to which our clients are entitled!
A Message From Gabe:
Accessing Your Benefits Statement Online
After a one year cost savings experiment during which the Social Security Administration did not send out Statements of Estimated Benefits to all wage–earners, the Administration has rolled out a terrific new on–line tool that can be used to access your benefits statement. Just click on SSA.gov and, along the left side of the website, you will see a link to “Get your Social Security Statement online”. After providing necessary personal information, you will be asked several challenge questions that only you should know. You will then be invited to set up a user name, password and recovery questions. After that point, you will be able to access your earnings record and benefits estimate.
Please note that while anyone can set up an account, not everyone will be able to access the familiar earnings statement form, which is only available to people who have not initiated claims for benefits from the Social Security Administration (including Disability and Retirement claims).
It is my understanding that SSA has also started sending benefits estimates to wage–earners by mail (though that usually comes a few months before every birthday, so it’s great to have the online option available for most of the year).
Spotlight on Medical Provider of the Month
This month, we spotlight Violet Gashi, the Office Supervisor at Hudson Valley Mental Health in Beacon, NY. She is friendly, professional, and never gives up until the request or problem we have is attended to. Thank you, Violet!
August is National Immunization