THE DE-FACTO PRIVATIZATION OF SSA FILE PREPARATION
When I began practicing SSA disability law in 1992, it was very simple and easy. I would get hired, file my paperwork, get my client to pick up his last records and go in and try the case. The SSA was the one who had gotten the records, as the law required and compiled them in a usually large paper file. All I really needed to do was to review the file for completeness and bring my client in to prepare his or her testimony for trial.
Gradually, as SSA became a political football, the SSA became underfunded by Congress and files became incomplete. In order to have aging claims adjudicated, it became incumbent on claimants and their attorneys to do the SSA’s job and bear the cost and administrative expense of getting the claimant’s records and get them filed with the SSA.
Claimants who did not have the financial resources or knowledge of how to do this for themselves, (It can be a daunting task for the physically or mentally ill who have no realistic ability to write and obtain these records.), had to find attorneys or non-attorney claim representatives to do this for them. ALJs began demanding that attorneys have cases prepared and ready and that the individual attorney be responsible for obtaining the records. It did not matter that it was the job of the SSA to do that, the attorney was still on the hook. Way back in 1992, there was not universal direct pay, so even if the attorney won, he or she could still be out on a limb with costs and a client who did not pay. Like other areas of the law, practitioners do this more as a calling than as anything else. Money is important to keep the doors open of course, but for me, each and every one of us in vested in this system. It is America. It is the system that is supposed to be our underlying social safety net. Bot there are gigantic holes.
We represent people who are ill. They receive Medicare eventually as part of the SSA disability package but the physicians who eventually benefit still charge for medical records and what’s more they either want hundreds of dollars to fill out a couple page check list or do not want to be involved in a patient’s case for fear of stepping out of their office routine and take ten minutes to go to bat for their patient. Thankfully, not all doctors are that way.
As part of this website we have published a list of physicians in our area who have given our clients good service and who are willing to write up honest evaluations based on patients’ clinical presentations and objective testing. The fact that these doctors do get involved is testament to the fact that they treat the patient and care for the patient. Well, I have some clients coming in…end of the soapbox and my preaching for the day.