Aug 2, 2012

NOSSCR Issues Press Release

     The National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) has issued a press release announcing that it is "launching a campaign to fight back against misleading allegations being made about the SSDI [Social Security Disability Insurance] program..." I mention this not because the press release itself has much importance but because as far as I know this is the first press release that NOSSCR has ever released. This means that NOSSCR now has a public relations firm and is ready to fight back against the lies and misrepresentations being spread about the Social Security disability programs.


Anonymous said...

It is great that the organization is rebutting the false allegations with facts. But brace yourself for the push back when the facts about the lucrative cottage industry that representing SSDI benes has become is revealed.

Anonymous said...

It's only a "lucrative cottage industry" if done badly. Taking a case and doing nothing else except attending a 30 minute hearing, while sitting at the hearing twiddling your thumbs? $6000 is a reasonable payday.
Actually representing a client, obtaining medical records, talking a TP in completing an evaluation report, filing an OTR request based on the new evidence, prepping the client for testimony, zealously cross-examining the "experts" at the hearing, etc.? Not such a generous payday.

Attorney fees on Social Security cases only seem excessive to non-lawyers. In comparison to other legal work, this is not a lucrative practice.

Moreover, every dime of attorney fees paid on Social Security cases (other than EAJA fees in court) comes from the claimant, not the trust funds or the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Attorney fees for SSA cases seem excessive to attorneys as well. Assuming a $200 hourly rate (a very reasonable rate unless you live someplace like NYC or LA), it would take thirty hours of work to earn the maximum $6000 fee. However, it would be the rare case where a representative would spent even half that much time on a case.

There is no area of the law that I am aware of where so little is expected of the attorney (or non-attorney representative), but yet a good payday is practically guaranteed if you have a decent volume of cases.

With a success rate of around 60% at the hearing level, 6 out of every 10 cases will be favorable. If you had ten hearings a month, won six of them, and received an average of $3000 a case (half the maximum fee), you would make $18,000 a month.

Also, attorney fees are paid from past-due benefits. Those benefits come from FICA taxes paid by every worker and which go into the trust fund, and therefore the fees do come from the taxpayers and the trust fund. Moreover, money paid in attorney fees is less money going to the claimant.

Anonymous said...

Leave it to an attorney to split hairs and state that the funds do not come from the trust funds. If it comes from the claimants then why must SSA withhold from the benefits to insure they get payments. What woulld NOSSCR say if SSA no longer witheld any fees and attorneys truly had to get every dime from the claimant ?

Anonymous said...

I'm an attorney and I think the fees that reps get for representing claimant's are outrageously high, for the minimal amount of work done.

As detailed above, do you really spend 30 hours per case???? Give me a break.

In my experience, if you live in a "high pay" area, the reps do little more than show up at the hearing, as they don't have to do much--the claimant is going to get paid.

If you live in a "low pay" area, the reps do little more than show up b/c what's the point in investing much time developing the case, when it's just going to get denied??

I'm sorry, claimant's reps are about the most overpaid attys in the business IMO

Anonymous said...

The money comes from the trust funds only in the sense that the claimant's benefits also come from the trust funds. The money would either be paid to the claimant or to the representative. Claimants might have a complaint about that, but there is no public policy argument that representative fees are a cost to the trust funds, except this: "If representatives weren't paid as much, claimants wouldn't have a harder time finding representatives. If claimants didn't have representatives, it would be easier to deny claims. Therefore, representative fees cost the trust funds money because representation makes it more likely the claimant will be awarded benefits."
That's the real argument over attorney fees, except those who complain about attorney fees don't have the guts to state it explicitly.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how much folks know about what it takes to maintain a firm, or a practice and what a representative puts into a case, how many hours per case and how much they make - and all the time noting that they have not done it but boy do they know it's easy money.
Of course it's shoot the messenger time, but don't think that this kind of inaccurate inference is any different that the myths offered by those attacking the disability program. The common theme - somebody’s gaming the system. Facts are nasty little things. They are strong enough to weather sunlight.

Anonymous said...

The most common basis for obtaining disability at the hearing level is the individual attaining age 50 or age 55 and benefiting from age-based presumptions. It does not take a representative to establish a sedentary or light RFC or establish someone is a beneficial age.

Lowering the amount of attorney fees would not reduce the availability of representatives. When the maximum fee was $4000, which was really not that long ago, there were plenty of representatives willing to take disability cases.

The purpose of a contigency fee is to reward risk and persuade attorneys to take cases that may require a lot of work for little profit, but could also mean a sizeable payday if all goes well. That incentive is unnecessary in disability cases because the pay rate is so high and the expectations of representatives so low. If you take a disability case and lose, you are out your hourly rate for maybe five or ten hours, plus maybe some minimal postage costs, as opposed to a contigency fee personal injury case where you would have spent thousands of dollars on depositions, obtaining evidence, hiring experts, etc., plus many hours of actual work on the legal memoranda required by the court and the many hours of the actual trial.

In Social Security disability law, you don't have to follow rules of evidence, you don't have to file complaints/briefs or otherwise set forth your argument in written form in a cogent manner before the hearing, you don't have to gather any of the evidence, you can intentionally withhold evidence, you can manufacture evidence, there are no real ethical standards you have to follow (especially since the SSA attorneys and ALJs are instructed not to report unethical conduct to the state Bar), you can be hired the day of the case and quickly glance at the evidence and when the ALJ pays the case based on work done by the ALJ's staff and the claimant you still receive the same fee as the representative who is involved in a case for months. There is no area of the law that is easier to practice than Social Security disability law or where your compensation routinely far exceeds the reasonable value of the work done.

Anonymous said...

@ 3:07...exactly.

Social Security News said...

I have a simple question for anyone who thinks that representing Social Security claimants is an easy path to riches. Why is it that almost no one leaves employment with the Social Security Administration to represent Social Security disability claimants? cth

Anonymous said...

Rock solid job security.
Six figure salary
Over a MONTH of paid vacation per year
10 paid holidays per year
8-hour work days
Working from home 2 days per week
Flex time (work 8 hours anytime between 6am and 6pm)
Retirement savings MATCH
Bonuses every year
Chill work-low stress

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of benefits to being a government employee, even in an agency as dysfunctional as SSA. Plus, your side of the fence, Charles, can get rather sleazy and disgusting (I am not saying that you are any of those things). For every truly disabled client you might have, there are probably a half dozen who are not motivated to work, plus the small percentage of outright frauds.

Moreover, there are many wonderful claimant's representatives (attorney and non-attorney) but there are also a lot of bottomfeeders. In a practice area where practically anyone can be a representative, you see a lot of attorneys who would not be capable of being successful if they had to practice "real" law (once again, not saying you, Charles, fit that category). Why would I want to associate myself with some of these people?

Anonymous said...

3:07 and 4:45 both nailed this SSA attorney's feelings on the matter.

I take that back, 4:45 should have added Public Service Loan Forgiveness (I'll forgive him/her since he/she is probably an old-timer with law school debt way out of mind). I did the math one day for s's and g's and discovered that to make up for JUST the PSLF benefit, I would have to make well into the 100s in the private sector. My loans are gone, in their entirety, forever, after making 120 monthly payments. Using the IBR program, as a GS-12, the monthly payment is about $500, and rises to about $800 at GS-14 salary. If I were repping claimant's, I could possibly still take advantage of IBR, but I'd be paying whatever the payment amount was until either:

1) I paid off $160k+ in debt (running at 7.5 interest. gosh, the economy was so great when i first took out loans that STAFFORD interest rates were 7.5%); or,

2) 25 years elapsed.

The savings from getting out of my loan payments after 10 years is probably worth it by itself, and is most assuredly worth it when considering 4:45's noted benefits.

Anonymous said...

As if you insiders are working as hard for your bloated federal salaries..

Anonymous said...

Funny how the majority of the anti-lawyer comments were posted during work hours by the SS employees. Boy, they must be hard at work.

Talking about SSD attys getting an easy pay day .... that's like the pot calling the kettle black

Anonymous said...

Re comment about no one leaving SSA to represent SSA claimants--wrong. I know several who have, and the number is growing. Non-attorney rep firms are increasing because of SSA employees seeing what they can be paid for doing almost nothing.

Anonymous said...

All pretty good points.

I always tells attorneys I hire that if you want to make a lot of money as an attorney do not get into Social Security Disability.

Really this area of law should be reserved to those attorneys that care more about the money. They want the disabled to get on benefits.

And to whether reps are overpaid, probably ALL attorneys are overpaid. But I live in LA. Based on other areas of practice, Social Security attorneys are UNDERPAID. There are countless areas of laws (especially contingent fee based) that the attorneys gets a lot for doing very little.

The same people who gripe at Social Security attorneys would not blink an eye charging excessive fees in other caess. They may charge excessive fees in other businesses. It's a double standard.

telsiz said...

Thank you very good information

Anonymous said...

Although SSA does not recognize firms, it probably underscores why the fee cap increases. How many claimants do you have to weed through to find someone who actually has some medical records and insured status? 5? 10? If disability claims are really all you take, that fee has to account for everyone in the office, even though the process is simple enough you could hang a sign on a door and manage it yourself to some extent.

And for 11:36pm-
"Social Security attorneys are UNDERPAID"
Some are lucky to actually be practicing law. We have 4 law school graduates -think they all have passed the bar- who are working as SRs with 1 as a CR here in my office. So many law schools churning them out and tacking on another $120k+ in debt.

Anonymous said...

So it appears that we have established that Representatives are paid too much and SSA employees are paid too much. It always seems that someone is paid too much doesnt it? I have never said I am being paid too much!

I do not believe SRs and CRs are overpaid in the filed offices. I do believe the rest of SSA staff is about one or two GS grades overpaid, including Sr. ATTY and ALJs. If this is all see spot run law, then why $100,000 for ALJs? since it is not "real law" as some have stated.

I believe Representatives are overpaid, $4500 is reasonable, it is not meant to be an industry, but a benefit program. Cost are high, staying in contact with Claimants, updating medical information and treatment, medication changes, address with SSA, getting medical source documents that convert doctor speak into Social Security speak. If the system worked properly, there would be little need of Hearings, but it doesnt work properly.

I believe none of this will change.

Anonymous said...

I read all of these comments and most seem to assume that the Reps get full fees in most cases. In fact, the opposite is true. For me lately, the average fee is around $2,000.00 because the trend lately is for the ALJ's to ask for amended onset dates. Say "no" at your client's peril.

For those of us who have been doing this for over 20 years, the ALJ's expect more from the Rep including exact references to precise pages in the record. For me at least, I spend a minimum of 4-6 hours of prep time per case. That does not include all of the time getting records, reports, etc.

Anonymous said...

6:07 and 6:47

I don't know about you, but my work hours are flexible. A full workday can be anywhere from 6:30 - 3:00 to 9:30 to 6:00. So, a lot of those comments made by employees could very well have been made outside of work hours. We also get a lunch break and two 15-minute breaks throughout the day because, unlike the private sector, our employer actually respects wage and hour laws. Finally, whining about Federal employees taking the time to read one of Chuck's posts and posting a reply? What about all the reps' firms that take Fridays off?

You're not going to convince me that the attorney's in this area work very hard at all unless they have a significant federal appeals practice. If there is any hard work being done in SS firms (and that's a big if), it's being done by the staff people requesting records, scheduling everything, building client files, etc.

Anonymous said...

Seems we have also established that no one is working at SSA and that the reps and attorneys are not working.

So this explains why nothing is geting done for the money on either side.

Should the Hearing level be ablolished? Eliminate the costs and the payout rewards for both sides? Move to just the CAL listings and abolish the rest, returning the program to its early beginnings?

Anonymous said...

11:20 am

I find it hard to believe that your average fee is around $2000.

Counting the six-months, that would mean an average onset date of like March 2011, and that assumes all your claimant's are only getting SSI.

I'm dubious of your assertion.