Your source for news affecting the U.S. Social Security Administration/© Charles T. Hall
That seems like a pretty easy overpayment to rectify. Either she owned the vehicles or she did not. SSA has the resources, LexisNexus, to determine this. It is too bad that she appears to be struggling to get this straightened out. I do realize this is her side of the story and that SSA may have a different side.
I've been a SSI CR for 6 years and to be honest, on the surface, the article seems absurd and easily correctable. However, that's just one side of the story so it's hard to make a definite call. If the problem is exactly as written, then the CR's in that office causing this issue shouldn't be working for the agency. The sad part is, with the union in place as it is, not only will they continue to be employed, won't be re-trained but instead promoted! Again, if the article is correct, it's baffling to me how it could be that difficult to uncover the truth. I don't have access to Lexis/Nexis, but wouldn't that show vehicles owned? How about a county BMV document? Heck, even back tracking prior RZ steps to uncover the error would help.I hate SSI, but if this true, it's very, very sad reflection of the competency if SSA.
"I have called and spoken to more attorneys in the past few weeks than I have in my life. Not one helps with over payments with SSI"Umm...plenty of lawyers will help. They just want to get paid. For an hourly fee, I guarantee you can get almost any attorney to help you.
And what basic necessity should the mother and child give up this month in order to pay your hourly fee?; by virtue of being eligible for SSI, the family income is quite minimal.
Per the rest of the blog, her husband is an employed college graduate. They have two nondisabled children, so there would be some additional deductions from earned wages, but one wonders if the overpayment is due to other reasons. Previous blog entries mention trips to Disney World, so one wonders how minimal the income is. Also, she indicates the overpayment is for two years of benefits. Aren't SSI cases looked at annually such that the excess vehicle would have been found a year ago?
11:23 - Setting aside your underlying presumptions... Many attorneys who would otherwise be competent to handle this type of case would at least be willing to discuss a payment plan. To piggyback on your train of thought, should these attorneys be taking food out of their own children's mouths? Contrary to popular belief, a HUGE percentage of attorneys live paycheck to paycheck, and not simply due to stupid spending habits (in contrast with another common myth). This is particularly true of people who have graduated from private law school in the past 10-15 years (or sometimes more), as those folks have fairly massive student loan payment right off the top. I get where you're coming from, but getting representation is not an all-or-nothing proposition. As attorneys are becoming increasingly entrepreneurial, flexibility in payment structure and methods--sometimes even including bartering for part or all of the fee, as I sometimes did myself before changing fields--is increasingly common.
Short answer: no
From my perspective, prospective client's seem to think attorneys will handle the overpayment case for free or that we will somehow be paid by SSA. Once it is explained to them that they will need to be responsible for payment of an approved fee and place funds into trust if possible until a fee petition can be approved by SSA once the issue is resolved, their desire for legal representation quickly goes away.
SSA cessation cases are very similar to criminal and domestic law cases--if the attorney doesn't get a retainer "up front" in a client trust account, the attorney is likely to get stiffed. Human nature being what it is, gratitude is short-lived. Examples of client logic: "What you did for me was ONLY paper!" "I would have won anyway!" and if you've worked your tail off and the case is still lost: "Your services didn't help at all, so I'm not going to pay!" Most of us want a monthly deposit into a client trust account to do these cases.And by the way, contrary to what I see SSA employees state, we DO NOT get $6,000 per case. Contingent fees based on back benefits depend on what the PIA will be and the length of time. The ODAR before which I practice always wants to amend onset dates in 75-80% of cases. Typical fees probably average $1,000 (or less) to $3,000. My assistants and I usually have about 30 hours expended per case, with me putting in about 10-15 hours personally.
The preceding comments seem mostly to address the feasibility of having an attorney represent an SSI overpayment case, rather than understanding how to fix the case. What you have to realize is that the overpayment may have been the result of erroneous entries in the SSI record, which is fairly common in the high-volume, low-staff SSA field office. If it occurred during a redetermination, then the CR who cleared the redetermination usually has no further contact with the case after it is completed. They have to move on to the hundreds or thousands of redeterminations still left to do. If an error is made, the claimant has to deal with the regular postentitlement SSI CR, who usually has little time to deal with SSI reconsiderations. An appointment must be made, which is usually in short supply. An appointment may not be available for 3-4 weeks. If it is rescheduled, another 3-4 weeks may pass until the next available one. I have seen this happen many times. Mistakes are made, but you cannot just "fix it". There is no staff to look at things like this. There are no priorities set for items like this. The claimant must file a timely appeal and request an appointment as soon as possible. Do not waste time trying to get an attorney. SSI non-medical appeal issues are usually cut-and-dried, and be corrected IF dedicated time can be obtained to address them.
7:50 - I think you gave the best answer. Take an appeal and try to resolve it at the Field Office. As a practitioner, I appreciate how busy everyone is at the field offices. Mistakes are made. However, not all medical issues are cut-and-dried and, in some cases, an attorney can be helpful to the claimant.If the claimant here was a former client, I would probably try to help without asking for an additional fee. Of course, I'm just an old, local practitioner and not an out-of-state, national, high-volume operation. I guess the clients of those folks just need to call New York for help. Good luck with that.
Not all offices divide the SSI CR staff into initial claim, redetermination and post-entitlement. And I have been an SSI CR since 1979 in four offices.My guess is that the problem of counting the car twice comes from the badly designed MSSICS RVEH screen that has recently been converted to a web based version along with all the other resource screens. Converting SSI claims screens in MSSICS to web based versions is part of a grand plan for self-help online SSI claims. If you select jointly owned car for the mother and list the father as the joint owner, the father's screen will include the same car and unless the claims rep meticulously divides the value by 2 for every month, the system will double the value. What we do get wrong in SSI is exactly when second cars are bought and sold and when their equity value increases because rarely do claimants report buying and selling a vehicle. Second cars can create all sorts of resource problems since only one car can be excluded for transportation and it takes a special reason to exclude a second car, and not just that the working spouse drives to work if there are other options for the working spouse to get back and forth to work. Even if the family has so many kids they don't all fit into one car. I actually think that when SSI claims become self-help, the applicants will make these errors themselves and will get denied because of it.
I am a Legal Aid attorney and help people out with both SSDI and SSI overpayments. It is a real bear to get any of the field office workers to deal with these claims. They are very overworked. Often, different workers will tell you different things. I sympathize with this person and I hope she is able to get this resolved.
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