A Winning Formula: Sharp SSA Personnel, Advocacy, and Relationships

June 30, 2016

Nearly every day at Nash Disability Law, we hear this from our clients: “I am so grateful for Social Security disability. If I didn’t get disability benefits, I don’t know what I would do.” SSDI and SSI payments—although modest—are crucial lifelines for many American families. Because the road to benefits is typically long and difficult to navigate, and because this journey means dealing with a large and seemingly uncaring bureaucracy, it is all too easy to get frustrated and to be critical of the Social Security Administration’s rules, procedures, and the SSA people working with them and you.

But it is important to remember that SSA is more than just a faceless government agency. It also includes real people, many of whom are caring, compassionate, and trying to do the right thing. At Nash, we tenaciously fight to get our clients benefits, and in doing so, we also believe in the value of developing and maintaining positive professional relationships with the people who work for the SSA, whether the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) who preside over disability hearings, the people in the local Social Security offices, or the people who process the payments when we win! Let me share with you a few recent examples where our clients and the public have been well-served by Nash attorneys and SSA personnel doing their important work.

Sharp ALJ

At a recent hearing, two medical “experts” were skeptical and negative about awarding benefits for one of our very deserving clients with something known as interstitial cystitis. But after Nash Attorney Dan McMillin vigorously cross-examined the first of two SSA medical experts, the ALJ did something that is unfortunately not as common as it should be or as you might expect – he embraced his independence and street smart world experience, recognizing the credibility of our well-prepared client – benefits were awarded for a deserving woman.

Red-Tape Busting SSA Claims Representative

A young mentally disabled client and his family, approved at a hearing, were told he would require an “institutional” payee to help him manage his benefits, even though he has a very loving and responsible family that was perfectly capable and willing to help him manage his funds. While there are many situations where such an “institutional” payee can be necessary, this profile did not remotely suggest any such need. The hearing office error and lack of responsivity to the concern triggered a wasteful comedy of errors at taxpayer expense. But at the end of the day, a sharp claims representative at the Palos Hills district office did the right thing and pierced through the proverbial red tape. We sincerely appreciate her work and ownership of a problem that needed leadership.

Seeing The Big Picture – Domestic Violence Impact

It is often said that justice delayed is justice denied. This point was driven home at a recent disability hearing. Our client was not only disabled, but the victim of domestic violence, too. Usually, a decision is not handed down until a month or two after a hearing, sometimes far more. However, with the insightful understanding of the ALJ, our client was approved for benefits right away. As a result, she was able to escape from a dangerous situation.

Payment Center Worker Skips Passing the Buck

Sometimes even a small favor can lead to a real benefit. When a Nash attorney’s call to SSA regarding a deceased client’s back pay went to the wrong office, Renee, a very nice SSA employee in the Baltimore Payment Center, took the call anyway. She could have dismissed the call, but instead she helped out. She put in a special request to complete the processing of the client’s money. This small favor expedited getting past due benefits to a grieving husband.

Local Office Promptly Sizes Up Complicated Earnings Issues

The Joliet Local District Office recently processed an application we filed. The application involved a very complicated profile of earnings. We offered the proper explanation that the earnings were the result of passive earnings, including investment income and income from the sale of a business. By properly evaluating all of the relevant documents with the application in an intelligent, responsive way, the local office got the case to SSA’s Disability Determination Service (DDS) where it belonged. What could have been a complicated bureaucratic delay was processed smoothly and appropriately.

ALJ Refuses to Kick The Can of Justice Down the Road

A few weeks ago, one of our attorneys, Andrew Barone, ran into an unusual situation which was about to greatly disrupt the lives of our clients. However, because the Administrative Law Judge and the staff at Social Security’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) were willing to work together, both justice and our clients were well served. The situation started with an unrelated Loop protest in front of the office building where our clients’ disability hearings were to be held. For more than two hours, no one was permitted into the building. The ODAR office advised us that both of our two hearings that afternoon were cancelled. Andrew and our clients persisted, however, and were finally allowed inside a mostly empty building. After searching through several hearing rooms, Andrew found the right judge who said, “Hold on a second.” He descended from the bench and went out a door to return a few moments later. “Let’s do this,” he said. In the end, both of our clients and their families had the opportunities to be heard.

I could go on. These are just a handful of examples. We take pride in our success in winning benefits for thousands of disabled people in the greater Chicago area in the course of our decades of work. But the past isn’t what‘s important, the future is. I can promise you that we will continue to be champions for our clients by applying our expertise and advocacy, and by nurturing key professional relationships. If you are thinking about applying for Social Security disability or if you have been turned down for disability benefits, schedule a free consultation with a Nash Disability Law lawyer. You can complete our simple online form, or better yet, call our office today.