Jul 10, 2013

Sympathy For Binder And Binder?

     Take a look at Jillian Kay Melchior's snarl on National Review Online. She's mostly targeting Charlie Binder of Binder and Binder but she goes way beyond him. The whole piece is just incredibly angry and mean-spirited. Among other things, Melchior says that Social Security pays a lot of money to people who never claim to be disabled. I suppose that's true if you're talking about retirement and survivor's benefits but it's certainly not true if you're talking about disability benefits. She mostly writes about a book published by Charlie Binder on Social Security disability benefits. I haven't read the book but it certainly sounds harmless. However, Melchior describes it as a "rotten little book" and says that it shows that Binder has a "radical political stance" basically because Binder thinks that Social Security, particularly disability benefits, is a good idea and because he suggests that Social Security is not always fair to disability claimants. She objects to Binder advising claimants who go before an Administrative Law Judge to answer only the questions they are asked. Melchior must have had no experience with lawyers. This is standard legal advice for anyone testifying in any sort of legal proceeding. I expect that it's been standard advice literally for centuries. I have to repeat that this piece is just incredibly angry and mean-spirited. Even if you're no fan of Binder and Binder, you'll find this attack disgusting.


Anonymous said...

what's your position on their red-flagged exhibits and withholding unfavorable evidence?

Anonymous said...

The thing I find most offensive and misleading is her description of rep fees. I am not a huge fan of reps, but to omit the fact that reps' fees are paid out of back benefits, not independently from the funds is a significant error.
Her simultaneous mentions of the funds being taxed etc. show that she purposefully omitted this fact to make her readers believe that reps are an independent, significant source of the funds' depletion. This is incorrect, of course, and abhorrent.

Anonymous said...

As a former Binder attorney, the article was intriguing. Much of what said was true e.g. the use of stickers to withhold evidence. When working there, it always seemed like a target for ALJs b/c they were the biggest.

I agree Binder is pretty much a warehouse now trying to make money. But I am not exactly sure how this differs from other big businesses. Sure, I left mainly b/c they have lost a personal touch with each client. But it seemed like a pretty good business model.

Also, I was not aware that 23 percent of ALJs grant 90 percent of cases. I would love to see those ALJs. They're not here in California.

This article just seemed very right wing trying to bash reps getting any fees. She obviously does not respect anything a lawyer does. Thus, she loses my respect.

Anonymous said...

If not obvious to everyone, the money going to the non-disabled is the attorneys fees. I am an ALJ and former personal injury attorney, and have no objection to attorneys getting paid for their work. However, far too many of the attorneys who appear before me have only a cursory knowledge of social security law, and even less knowledge of their client's records. And, the attorneys from the big national firms, such as and including Binder, are most often the ones who have little knowledge of their client's records.

Binder, and other firms like them, obviously submit evidence in a selective manner, make no effort to delete duplicates or put the records in chronological order, and put little effort into preparing their client's for the hearing. Rather, they seem to rely on the ALJ not really knowing the file either and, if denied, attack the ALJ's decision, get it remanded, and collect their EAJA fees. Then, try again with the ALJ and collect more fees. This method makes the attorney money, but at their client's expense, which is more than unsavory, it is unethical.

Further, I would hope and expect that all attorney's properly prepared their client's for the hearing, including instructing (not coaching) them how to answer questions. However, when I see gaps in records and that records were not submitted, I suspect something's up and give an adverse inference, which obviously is also not in the claimant's interest. Binder has a fast-food approach to social security law, which should be avoided, however, ODAR's management and many of its ALJ's, unfortunately share the same approach.

As the former Binder associate stated, they lost touch with their client's, but they have a good business model. Perhaps I am old fashioned, but, in my view, law is a profession not a business, and, as such, good attorneys should devote their full attention to their clients.

Anonymous said...

The latest data available from SSA (as of May 31, 2013), shows that only 18 of the 1,501 active ALJs awarded 90+% of their cases. This comes out to 1.2%. Despite all the talk about so-called rogue ALJs bankrupting the system, only 174 active ALJs (11.6%) vary from the average 56% allowance rate by 25% or more (one method to define outliers). And those ALJs are fairly equally split between the ones who allow a lot of cases and those who deny a lot of cases. 5.3% of active ALJs allow 31% or fewer, and 6.3% allow 81% or more.

Anonymous said...

7:29 I believe the article says 23 judges, not 23% of judges. As the most recent commenter notes, the very favorable judges are less than 2% of the total.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 9:38 7-10-13: I appreciate the comments coming from an ALJ.

As a former Binder attorney, I agree many ALJs had many gripes about Binder sending in duplicates. I actually had 1 ALJ threaten to require me to physically remove all the duplicates from the file (Did not do it obviously). This was a big problem at the firm.

I do not agree w/ the lack of preparation. I was never unprepared for a case based on review of the records and knowledge of Social Security law. True, there may have been times when actual contact w/ client prior to hearing was not accomplished. But not knowing the record was unacceptable. Never happened.

Also, I am not sure what is the argument about "coaching" the client. I never told a client what to say. But I did go over questions that might occur to see how they answered. I would not call it "coaching" the client but more like "prepping" the client for testimony. That seems reasonable in any area of law when faced with testimony, including personal injury.

In any manner, good discussion.

Anonymous said...

Duplicates are also the responsibility of the 5 to 1 ratio SSA staff preparing the file. You know, the ones who get the GS7-9 checks to lable every file MER and date unknown. If there is a duplicate in the file when SSA points the finger, there are more pointing back at them.


Anonymous said...

On my first Binder and Binder hearing, the VHR came in and said you ar enot going to be happy the claimant isn't here. I decided to give them 15 minutes. Still no claimant. It was my last hearing of the day so I gave them 15 more minutes. Teh VHR came back adn said youa re definately not going to be happy as the Rep is sitting in one corner of the room and the claimant in the other corner of the room. I said, "Well, bring them in." When they came in I said, "Good afternoon, Mrs. Binder would you like me to introduce your claimant to you, since it appears you don't seem to know each other?" She said, "I am not Mrs. Binder, I am so and so from Chicago." I said, "No according to the 1696, you are a Binder." Needless to say it went downhill from there...

Anonymous said...

The former binder employee seems to be trying to assuage his guilt of the crappy service binder provides by assuring us he knew his files in and out.

Allow me to posit that if you do not speak to your client meaningfully more than 30 minutes before your hearing, you do not know your file well at all.

Anonymous said...

here's a reply to the article froma pensacola, fl claimant's rep.