Jul 14, 2010

Aspirational Goals For Those Who Represent Social Security Claimants

The North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ) is an organization of attorneys who represent plaintiffs, mostly in personal injury matters, but also in matters such as workers compensation and Social Security. The NCAJ's Disability Advocacy Section (DAS) is composed of about 300 attorneys who represent Social Security claimants. This section is probably the most active such state-wide group in the country. The DAS recently approved a list of aspirational goals for DAS members. These goals are, as they are labeled, aspirational. There was no intent to set a legally enforceable standard. The list is not exclusive. A good attorney may have standards that go beyond this list. While some items on the list may seem quite basic, experience has shown that none of these can be taken for granted.

  1. Have regular contact with client and return all client’s telephone calls.
  2. While the case is pending, develop the medical evidence, including obtaining treatment notes and medical source statements, and submit them to SSA [Social Security Administration] as soon as practicable, and seek on-the-record decision where appropriate.
  3. Meet in person with client, inform client of scope of representation and adequately prepare client well in advance of hearing.
  4. Be familiar with the legal and factual issues in client’s case; develop a theory of the case; be prepared to present the case; and where appropriate prepare and deliver a one-two page brief a few days prior to the hearing.
  5. Do not withdraw from representation after hearing is scheduled absent special circumstances.
  6. Take some of the hard cases, like Hyatt cases [an NC class action], cessation cases, overpayment cases, remote dates last insured cases, and Medicaid cases, including pro bono cases.
  7. Assist in getting client paid after a favorable decision and inform client of rights and options after adverse decision.
  8. Familiarize yourself with services in your community which may be available to your clients, such as vocational rehabilitation, Veterans’ Administration, free medical clinics, food banks, shelters, domestic violence programs, and mental health services.
  9. Know the doctors in your area and promote good relationships with them and their staffs. Pay them promptly for records and their time. Let them know of favorable outcomes and how their assistance is appreciated (with client's permission).
  10. Continue educational and professional development; stay apprised of new laws and regulations; improve knowledge over and above requirements of the State Bar.
  11. Be active in professional organizations, e.g., NCAJ DAS and NOSSCR [National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives]. Volunteer to provide education to colleagues, civic groups, local community groups, support groups, and the public at large. For example, speak at a CLE [Continuing Legal Education], chair a CLE, write an article, or speak at a public event about some aspect of Social Security law.
  12. Know who your elected representatives are and contact them about important legislation.
  13. Be familiar with and comply with the requirements of 20 CFR [Code of Federal Regulations] §404.1740 Rules on conduct and standards of responsibility for representatives.


Anonymous said...

#9 is inappropriate! It would be a violation of privacy/confidentiality to inform a physician of the outcome of a case. Claimants give their representatives permission to collect evidence from their physicians, but not to provide case information to them. It's a one-way relationship (doctors provide records) and that should be the extent of it.

Anonymous said...

This is Anonymous #1 -- I just saw that #9 does say to do that with the client's permission. Still, I would be hesitatnt to disclose that information to them. The client can do that when he/she sees the doctor.