Sometimes those who intend to help really screw things up. A couple of social workers in a local Illinois agency were convinced that all attorneys want to do is drag out Social Security cases so they can get fees. In fact, they were convinced that the best way to get disability benefits was for their clients to do their own applications and requests for reconsideration. These social workers actually told clients not to consult with attorneys.
After being denied, one of these clients came in to see us. We were horrified by what they had done. The social workers did not know to advise the client to do an SSI application with the disability app. The client is as poor as a church mouse. Even though he is insured for Social Security Disability, that doesn’t pay until the sixth full month after the date he is found to be disabled. This simple mistake will end up costing the client some $3,700. The damage cannot be reversed because SSI payments can only go back to the date of application.
The case actually might have been paid on application if someone who knew what they were doing had reviewed the paper work. The client, who has a less-than-high-school education, said that he became disabled several years before he applied. This is a common mistake. People think they are disabled when they got sick. This is not Social Security’s definition of disabled. He absolutely was not disabled while he was working. There was no medical evidence going back to the date he alleged. That alone virtually assured the case would have to go to a hearing.
Though the client has little education, no one reviewed his paperwork. On both the application and the reconsideration paperwork, he didn’t list the problems he had doing household activities and personal care – and they are substantial. On his work history, he significantly understated the lifting and amount of time he spent standing for many of his jobs. (He was over age 50 and this mistake makes his case much tougher.) Things have changed substantially in the past few years. The percentage of cases being paid has dropped by fifteen percent nationwide. A newly trained administrative law judge I was in front of last month structured her questions for the vocational expert not on the testimony at the hearing, but on the activities of daily living form first prepared by the client!
It is patently obvious the agency knows very, very little about disability law. In short, this agency which is supposed to help people live independently made this person’s life much worse. I have written the agency and called to offer to do in-service training for their staff. We haven’t had the courtesy of a reply.