A Message from Lew: New Social Security Ruling
Impairs Effective Representation
Social Security recently announced that they will no longer tell Social Security claimants or their representatives or attorneys who the Judge will be when they schedule a hearing. This policy, instated in response to what the SSA feels is “judge shopping,” will have unfortunate, negative ramifications for the very people the SSA is trying to help: the claimants.
Apparently, some representatives have either withdrawn from a claim when faced with a judge who they believe will not approve a case, or alleged unavailability in order to have the case shifted to a different judge. Without a doubt, both tactics disrupt the scheduling of cases, which is and should be one of the agency’s priorities. However, the Agency’s recent decision harms the very people that they are trying to assist. When attorneys or other representatives do not know the judges before whom they will be presenting at a given hearing, it is impossible for them to properly prepare their clients for the hearing.
Most Social Security claims are denied initially; if the claimant doesn’t give up they eventually proceed to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Statistically, that is where a claimant has the best chance of success. While all hearings share a similar structure, every judge has his own pre–hearing requirements, areas of focus, and approaches to questioning a claimant. As attorneys, at this extremely stressful and important juncture we do all we can to prepare not only the facts and arguments, but we also prepare our clients for specific ALJ to which their claim has been assigned.
We can’t do that if we don’t know who the ALJ is until we get to the hearing. Moreover, I am willing to bet that the judges won’t like this new ruling either! Judges tend to expect that attorneys will prepare a case in the manner that they prefer, but without knowing who the ALJ is, we cannot prepare for that particular judge’s preferences.
While we agree it is not acceptable to try to manipulate the system, there are other solutions that the SSA could have come up with that would not be detrimental to the claimants.
Unfortunately, by all accounts Social Security’s new policy is a not reaction to the bad behavior of local disability firms or lawyers, but of some of the large national disability advocates. These national companies by their very nature are not tuned in to the local nuances that are so important to actually winning claims. We believe that by their actions these non–attorney advocacy firms have done all Social Security Disability claimants a good deal of harm.
Thank you for Supporting Local Food Pantries
We are thrilled to announce that thanks to your participation in our Facebook campaign, we raised $600 for local food pantries! In December, Insler & Hermann promised that for every new “Like” we received on our page by New Years, we would donate $10 to a local food bank. 52 of you participated, and Lew and Gabe rounded up, donating $600 to the following food banks:
Let’s all continue to support local food pantries throughout the year, with donations of food and other household necessities!
A Recent Testimonial from a Satisfied Client
Gabe Hermann was diligent, provided great clarity as to what my options were in moving forward with my claim, and explained what the likely outcomes were if I pursued each of these possible courses. Final outcome... a ‘fully favorable’ decision on appeal. I give Gabe my heartfelt thanks and highest recommendation for a thoroughly competent job well done.
–Ken L., Melville, NY
Spotlight on our Favorite Medical Provider of the Month
This month we spotlight pain management specialist Dr. Asher Goldstein at Genesis Pain Management in Teaneck, New Jersey. We always hear only positive feedback about Dr. Goldstein’s compassionate care of his patients as well as his ability to succinctly summarize his patients’ medical conditions to help establish our clients’ claims.
A special thank you to Office Administrator Cerina, who is kind, efficient, and clearly cares about the practice’s patients. She helps us by promptly forwarding patient records which are critical to winning their disability claims.