A Message from Lew: A Recap of Our Presentation to POINT
In February, Teresa Panone and I visited the POINT Program at Westchester Jewish Community Services to engage in a question and answer session for the parents of the participants. POINT is a unique program with supportive services that enables young adults aged 21 and older who have developmental and learning disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, to live independently in apartments located throughout downtown White Plains.
The POINT parents had sought out Insler & Hermann due to their frustration with what they perceived as inconsistent decisions and answers by Social Security personnel, especially with regard to SSI eligibility and benefit amounts.
Teresa Pannone has worked with Insler & Hermann for a number of years following a 25 year career with Social Security where she managed local offices and also specialized in SSI eligibility, so she was the perfect person to help me answer all of the questions posed by these concerned parents and guardians.
We explained that SSI looks at every case individually and that even if the facts of two cases appear identical, they might not be. We also made them aware of the POMS, the operations manual used by Social Security. This valuable resource allows individuals to research their questions even before having to go to Social Security.
When the POINT representative contacted me at first I thought that the issues might be difficult for us to answer, as our practice usually relates to the medical aspects of disability, not the asset and income issues surrounding SSI eligibility. But with a little bit of research and Teresa’s vast experience in this area we were able not only to answer the questions they had for us, but also to give them some guidelines to utilize going forward for themselves and any new members of the group.
The outcome was a win-win; we educated and enlightened the parents while clarifying and solidifying our own knowledge of the topics for the benefit of our current and future clients.
Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in an in-service presentation by the attorneys of Insler and Hermann.
Message from Gabe on the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program
We recently handled a case under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program, a Federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs – Bureau of Justice Assistance. This is a program that provides significant benefits to police, fire and other first responders in the event of disability or death in the line of duty.
We had initially represented our client, a former Amtrak police officer who was severely injured in the line of duty, on his Railroad Retirement claim. Following a hearing in that case, he was awarded a disability annuity from the Railroad.
After successfully completing that case, my client asked me to handle his PSOB claim. In his case, a successful outcome would be worth $275,658, but obtaining those benefits was no simple matter.
Among the requirements for this program is that the injured person show that he or she was a “public safety officer.” Because he worked for Amtrak, which is a publicly owned, for profit company, it was first necessary to prove that our client was technically considered a public servant within the definition of the PSOB rules. By providing documentation, including statements from government officials acknowledging that fact and by showing that all of the client’s police training was done under government auspices– –including training at Quantico, the FBI’s training facility– –we were able to overcome that hurdle.
More difficult was addressing the need for our client’s supervisor, as well as the chief of the agency with which he was affiliated, to sign off on his application. Because of the circumstances surrounding his injury and other issues including reassignments, retirements and terminations, there was absolutely no way to obtain the necessary signatures from anyone affiliated with Amtrak. Fortunately, we were able to provide ample documentation from the incident records, hospital records and after incident reviews to satisfy all of the PSOB’s requirements. We were able to prove that the disabling accident occurred in the line of duty, the client was not at fault, that he was transported to the hospital for treatment and that it was confirmed that he had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the incident.
After satisfying all of the procedural requirements, we provided the PSOB decision makers with the medical proof of a permanent and significant disability which impacted on our client’s ability to function both at work and at home and then we waited for medical and then legal review of the application.
It was an absolute pleasure to call my client to let him know that this life-altering award had been granted despite the fact that this claim could have easily rejected at multiple steps in the process– –not because my client was not deserving of the benefits, but because the procedural rules needed to be adapted to the technical difficulties of HIS case.
SPOTLIGHT ON OUR FAVORITE MEDICAL PROVIDER OF THE MONTH
This month we are spotlighting Dr. Howard Luks of University Orthopedics in Hawthorne, NY. A special thank you to Dr. Luks’ assistant Jennifer Biddle, who is quick, efficient, and always ready to help us get the medical records we need to prepare our clients’ disability claims.
March Birthday Madness!
This month we celebrate an unusual number of birthdays!
Happy Birthday to Gabe, Elena, and Donna!
Happy birthday also to our Marketing Director, Abigail Hepner Gross, and to Lew’s wife, Shelley!