The media’s portrayal of the Social Security disability system, the beneficiaries and the economics of disability payments has been unfavorable to say the least. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has written an interesting piece on the subject: cepr.net
Choosing a Social Security Attorney – So much advertising, so little information!
There are a lot of lawyer advertisements. You see them on television, you hear them on the radio and they are all over the Internet. “Call this firm for your accident, call this firm for your bankruptcy, complete this online form for your Social Security Disability benefits.”
BEWARE: many of the firms doing the most advertising are simply the firms with the greatest marketing budget, not the firms that are right for YOUR case. Also, they are rarely in your community and will almost never meet with you to discuss the issues of your case.
In the Social Security Disability practice many national and large regional law firms spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just in marketing and advertising. Does this mean that these are the best lawyers to provide the legal services you need? Often the answer to that question is “No!”
At Jeffrey A. Rabin & Associates, Ltd. you will speak with trained law firm employees who are legally and ethically responsible to you under the guidelines of our State Bar Association and the Social Security Administration. You will have direct contact with staff trained by our attorneys, and you will have at least two attorneys knowledgeable and directly responsible for your case – one of those being Jeff Rabin. We work in Northern Illinois, we know our communities, we know local resources, we know how Chicagoans think, and we care about you as a client – not just as a number on a computer screen.
In fact, many advertisers on the Internet are not even law firms — they are either non-attorney advocacy firms, or simple Internet marketing companies who sell your information to law firms across the country! These Internet marketers are virtually unregulated. The disclaimers identifying them are often hard to find, buried in small print in the website. Your information ends up being sold to the law or advocacy firm who is pays the most to the marketing company for each “lead.” A “Lead” to the marketing company is just another name, phone and email address to be sold – in the real world it is a human who is disabled and suffering. Is that how you really want to get a representative?
When you complete a form on an Internet website which is not clearly identified as a local law firm site, you may be called from an independent contractor hired by a large call center and who is not a law firm employee. That person’s salary may be dependent upon churning as many phone calls and emails as possible in a day, as opposed to listening and providing service to you. You may be calling with someone thousands of miles from your home – and what does that person really know about medical and legal help in your town?
When you reply to an Internet advertisement, or to a television commercial, ask tough questions. Where is this law firm? Who will actually be going to the Administrative Law Judge hearing with you? Will that person by your side at the ALJ hearing, who you are counting on to argue with a Judge and cross-examine the Social Security doctor, be an attorney? Will that person by your side even be an employee of the law firm or will the law firm hire low cost independent lawyers to do your hearing? Will that person have experience? There are really qualified non-attorney advocates, and some good national law practices – but consumers need to ask the right questions so that they truly understand who they are hiring for what is likely the most important legal matter in their life.
In the Chicago region Jeffrey A. Rabin & Associates, Ltd. has built a reputation based upon effective, aggressive and compassionate representation of people needing Social Security benefits. That is our mission and that guides our daily work. Our offices are in your community, our staff is from your community – with more than 60 years of combined legal services the attorneys of Jeffrey A. Rabin & Associates have worked with Social Security staff, physicians, hospitals, clinics and therapists in your community.
There are a lot of lawyer advertisements. Be an informed consumer. Get referrals from friends, neighbors, physicians and others that you trust. Ask a lot of questions if you choose to respond to an advertisement. Find a law firm with skilled and experienced attorneys in your community who focus in this area of the law. The Mission of the lawyers and staff at Jeffrey A. Rabin & Associates, Ltd. is to provide the representation you need to get the help you deserve – Do Not Fight Alone.
Here is an interesting article from the ABA Journal:
Take a look at the lovely letter Jeff recently received from a caseworker in his community:
April 11, 2014
Dear Mr. Rabin,
I would like to inform you that I have recently become the Caseworker at Township General Assistance office, the former caseworker has retired. I am now receiving your Social Security Newsletters and would like to tell you that they are most informative.
Each month I look forward to receiving it and always find it has very helpful information. For example in the April 2014 issue it explained how the Social Security District Office is cutting services. This information is very important to me and other caseworkers due to the fact we send our clients to these office on a regular basis to get the exact information that they no longer provide. If it had not been for your newsletter, I would have continued to send clients there for absolutely no reason. And as you know, most of the clients we serve are low income families who do not have the means to drive to the Social Security office when they no longer can retrieve the information they would need.
Again, we appreciate all you are doing.
Please join us:
Thursday, May 15th, 7:15 a.m.
Thursday, May 15th, 5 – 6:30 p.m.
JW Marriott, Indianapolis, IN
We hope to see you in Indianapolis for the NOSSCR Conference for our breakfast meeting and we will also be hosting a reception right before the President’s Cocktail Reception from 5-6:30 p.m. on Thursday in Room 301 to socialize and mingle!
Jeff & Rachel
We all regularly read the experts’ predictions of doom and gloom for the fiscal future of the Social Security trust funds. Changing American demographics with Baby Boomers reaching retirement age in record numbers will impact the funding of future benefits.
While the facts and figures are well known, solutions have proven elusive. Congress seems afraid to tackle the issue because of the infamous “third rail of politics” fear for re-election. “Think tank” solutions seem biased based upon the political tendencies underlying the researchers.
Voice Of the People (VOP), is a new organization founded to increase citizens’ involvement with government policy. VOP has taken a novel approach to researching a comprehensive solution that appears to have bipartisan political support. Using researchers from the University of Maryland, and a study group statistically representative of the general United States population, VOP developed a series of possible solutions to funding Social Security into the future.
Before presenting alternative ideas to the research group for consideration, VOP had all of ideas vetted by both Democratic and Republican policy officials from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who deal with Social Security issues, along with the National Academy of Social Insurance and the American Enterprise Institute.
After being given background information on the Social Security programs and issues, getting arguments both for and against each possible solution, and being given data showing how each solution interacted with others to impact the result, a consensus developed to eliminate most of the Social Security windfall.
Overwhelming bipartisan majorities endorsed the following measures to help solve future Social Security shortfalls:
1. Reduce the benefits to the top 25 percent of earners;
2. Raise the full retirement age gradually to age 68;
3. Gradually raise the income subject to the payroll tax to $215,000;
4. Raise the payroll tax rate from 6.2 percent to 6.8 percent.
Each of these solutions was endorsed by more than sixty percent of both Republican and Democrat participants with a 4.4% margin of error. There was little difference based upon party loyalty when citizens tried to actually solve the problems!
This study shows that there are answers that are acceptable to the citizenry as a whole, we just need politicians willing to tackle the problem. Whether these solutions are best is up to debate. Certainly the concerted attacks on the Social Security Disability Insurance program are NOT providing solutions – just histrionic publicity.
You can read the entire report, and actually perform the same policymaking simulation at www.VOP.org.
On February 20, 2014 SSA issued a proposed Regulation in the Federal Register dealing with disclosure of adverse evidence. It appears that Social Security is reacting to the Wall Street Journal articles on Binder and Binder not disclosing evidence. This proposed Regulation puts representatives at risk in several ways: 1. It would compel us to disclose evidence adverse to our clients’ claim, a possible violation of your State’s Canons of Ethics; and, 2. It compels representatives to “help obtain” medical records – but at what level? at what cost? What if we get cases at initial or reconsideration and we feel the DDS should get and pay for the records? What if we know about an FCE obtained by an insurance company during a workers’ compensation case — now we will be forced to disclose that exam, even if it is adverse. The language does say “…we would clarify that we are not shifting our responsibility to develop the record to claimants’ representatives.” Anyone want to bet on how many ALJs will ignore that language?
This proposed Regulation would clearly force us to submit adverse or questionable records and reports we obtain from a treating physician. The proposed Regulation also modifies attorney-client privilege in two ways: 1. It extends attorney-client privilege to non-attorney representatives; and, 2. Reports or records obtained from a treating physician are not attorney work product and are not privileged – although our own handwritten notes are. The proposed Regulation also makes clear that “redaction” includes removal of pages.
Now in real life we never redact records and we do develop medical evidence for clients. I do think there are ALJs who will push the envelope and put some attorneys in positions of conflict with the State Ethical guidelines. There will also be issues regarding purchase of records and reports. This may also be used to punish the mentally ill or unsophisticated client that can not recall of of their past medical providers. This further erodes the distinction between attorney and non-attorney representatives. Here is the link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-02-20/pdf/2014-03426.pdf.
As I mentioned in an email I had been negotiating with a lead generation company that has offered to sell Social Security disability leads with defined requirements at a reasonable cost. I have not been able to get them to commit and just discovered the “back story.”
Apparently there was such a volume of leads that one of the national disability firms actually just merged the lead generation company into their practice! This lead business has been getting thousands and thousands of leads a month which apparently were being converted into solid cases by the national law practice. It should also be noted that the lead generation company was NOT the biggest competitor we have out there.
The competition for our clients on the Internet is just getting more fierce. You are LOSING business if your website is not actively marketing to potential clients in your community. The nature of getting new business for consumer based law practices is changing. Lead generation companies are going after Social Security, bankruptcy, personal injury, mass tort, criminal cases and more.
As we have discussed, we can either share our profits with these companies or compete.
At PRLM, we feel that a blended marketing approach will take advantage of the unassailable advantage you have of being local and being experienced. You must be taking advantage of modern SEO techniques to make your website noticed to searchers in your community. You must be constantly developing your local contacts and enhancing your local reputation. You must be diligently communicating with your former clients to mine that built-in referral network for more cases. Then, if you want a small bump in your practice and have the staff, you can supplement your work with buying leads, despite the manpower and cost per case.
Six states and counties, including Cook County Jail located in Chicago, are getting new prisoners to sign up for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Medicaid expansion program, according to Bloomberg Washington News. Proponents feel this will decrease recidivism because inmates getting medical treatment for mental illness, substance abuse and other conditions have a better chance of recovery and avoiding crime in the future. There is also the practical reality for the localities of shifting health care costs to the federal level. According to Bloomberg more than $6.5 billion is spent by states for treating prisoners. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that about 480,000 people in U.S. prisons and jails suffer from a mental illness. If the medical conditions, despite treatment, are so severe that they preclude full time work, there will be more people with medical insurance, treatment and records to prove entitlement to SSDI and SSI benefits.
We have moved in this direction in our practice for some time. We have four smaller desktop scanners and one stand alone scanner/copier being used throughout the suite and have tried to cut back on the use of paper. We have succeeded to a great extent (although you couldn’t tell by looking at my desk) and keep refining our processes. I have found that listening to my staffs’ suggestions to be the best way to improve our system and smooth out workflow.
I was thinking of this after reading this interesting blog for those moving in this direction. Many of the issues raised are eliminated if you use a good database system — in our office we use Time Matters and, while not perfect, it makes file and document quite simple.
Let’s share best practices and ideas; if you have any questions on this blog post them and we can all learn! ! Here’s the article:
Here’s to a day of new clients and Favorable Decisions!