SOCIAL SECURITY CASES HEARD IN HANNIBAL REASSIGNED TO ST. LOUIS ODAR
In November our office was notified that all of our cases which are heard in Hannibal – all of our Illinois cases as well as the eastern two-thirds of Northeast Missouri — are being transferred back to the St. Louis Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, ODAR. While it remains to be seen what the overall impact will be, we were all happy to going back to the office we dealt with successfully for twenty-five years.
The Columbia office has been plagued by problems. It has had serious difficulty retaining judges. They seem to transfer out at the first opportunity. (As three of our attorneys have at least one degree from Mizzou, we can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t love to live there.) The office has shrunk from ten judges to three. In addition, it seems to be a place where inexperienced judges start their careers. That has meant we were frequently dealing with novice judges. Due to Social Security Administration hiring policies we often find ourselves in front of judges with no experience in either medical or Social Security Law. There is a preference for hiring veterans within the SSA and while that sounds like a noble thing to do, the experience they bring with them gives them little understanding of the nuances of mental health and physical problems.
We are hoping that the St. Louis office may be more open to paying decisions on the record without need of a hearing. We are filing requests to see if they are going to fly. If so, that should cut down on wait times for claimants. In any event, we are optimistic that our return to St. Louis will be good news for our clients.
SOCIAL SECURITY APPLICATIONS-WHY WE WANT WANT TO DO THEM
In 2014, approximately half of the people we got Social Security Disability or SSI benefits received them on application. Of those people, we received no fee on approximately one-third. Social Security Disability payments do not begin until the sixth full month after the date a person became disabled. On another third we received a small fee (last week we got a check for $1.73.) On the final third we received a fee. In and of itself, doing applications makes little money for our law firm. However, it does pay dividends for our clients and ultimately ourselves on those cases that have to go to hearings.
We have our clients submit everything to us for review before we ship them to Social Security. It can make a huge difference. Even our clients with M.D.s and Ph.D.’s have made some real mistakes on their paper work.
Here is an example – and sadly, this is not an exaggeration. This type of thing happens all of the time in Social Security hearings. A forty-nine-year-old woman came in who had a history of two lumbar surgeries, CHF, and an MI. She had done her own application and all of the paperwork including the “Function Report” which is a report of activities of daily living. On the report, she had stated, “I do the laundry.”
When we were getting ready for her hearing, I asked her:
“How have you been doing the laundry?”
She replied, “My son comes over and carries the basket to the machine for me.”
“And if your son can’t come over?”
“I live in a mobile home. I slide the basket down the hall to the machine with my foot.”
“I see,” I said. “How do you get the clothes from the basket into the washing machine?”
“Well,” she said. “My son went to Wal-Mart and bought me a thing called a Grabber. I pick up a couple of pieces at a time and flip it into the machine while I sit in a chair.”
We went to the hearing and she testified just as she did above. The judge stopped us after that and asked:
“Mrs. Claimant, do you remember filling out a Function Report for us nearly two years ago?”
“I think so,” the lady replied.
“And you told the truth when you filled out the form, didn’t you?
“Of course,” she said.
“I have it here,” the judge continued. “You wrote, ‘I do the laundry.’ You remember that?”
“You didn’t say anything at all about your son coming over and carrying the basket to the machine, did you?”
“And you didn’t say anything about sliding the basket down the hall, did you?”
“I guess not.”
“And there is no mention whatsoever about what did you call the stick thing?”
“A Grabber, sir. No, I guess I didn’t say anything about it.”
The judge paused and tapped his pen on a pad of paper. “Well,” he finally said with a look of disgust. “Were you lying to us then, or are you lying to me now?”
For those of you who don’t go to Social Security hearings, this probably sounds preposterous. There are some decent judges who would never do this. But it is an all-too-real example of things that happen with some judges.
If you know someone who should be applying for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits, please do not give them the old hackneyed advice to do their own application and get a lawyer when they get denied. It certainly does not save a penny for anyone recently disabled and who is insured for SSDI. Doing their own application could very well cost a person their hearing. We are now telling our clients exactly what the police tell the bad guys on TV cop shows. Everything you say can and will be used against you! It’s corny, but it succinctly states the situation.
AND FINALLY…..OUR JEEP
We have been marching in Veteran’s Parades for several years now and have been looking for something fun and attractive to salute our vets with. This year we bought a 1942 Ford military jeep! It is being restored for us by the good folks at Derk’s Autowerkes in Quincy.
Right now it sounds like a Sherman tank when it goes, but we premiered it in this November’s Veteran’s Day Parade in Quincy.
It is great to feel the wind in your face as you drive down the road in a genuine piece of American military history. Look for us this year in parades in the area.
We are proud to support our vets and honored to serve all of our clients.