Social Security Disability Representation and Falling Short
I was speaking to someone I know who works as a field office CR, or claims rep. Claims reps--for those who are unaware--are the individuals who take in disability applications at social security offices and then transmit them to the state agency that actually does the medical evaluation of the claim (usually called DDS, or disability determination services, this is where the case is assigned to a disability examiner). This particular CR was telling me that they had begun to receive some claims from a newer non-attorney representation company that takes cases nationally and their "take" on the company was not favorable. In what way?
Well several, actually.
1) The paperwork they turn in to social security tends to be shoddy and somewhat incomplete.
2) They are difficult to get return calls from.
3) They make it very difficult for the social security administration to contact the claimant.
Number 3 is what I want to focus on. Individuals who obtain representation on a Social Security Disability claim or SSI disability claim sign something known as form SSA-1696. The 1696 is used to notify the social security administration that a claimant is being represented. Once the 1696 is received by SSA, SSA is put on notice to A) send copies of all correspondence to the representative (so that the claimant and the representative each stay on the same page) and B) to (theoretically) get permission from the representative prior to contacting the claimant.
This particular company apparently makes it impossible for the social security administration to contact the claimant. Now, there is a reasoning behind this. Protecting the claimant's interests can be facilitated by making sure that the representative is the first line of contact. However, blocking social security's access to the claimant only makes sense if the representative actually stays on the ball.
In other words, if social security needs information about the claimant's work history and the representative won't allow social security to get the information directly from the claimant, then the representative needs to quickly obtain this information themselves so it can quickly be returned to social security.
Sadly, that is not what this company does. At the same time that they impede contact between SSA and the client they also take far too much time to respond to information requests. In other words, they fall short of what they should do to make sure the processing of the claim is not delayed. Suffice it to say, this is not a standard to conform to.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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