Here are three examples to give you an idea of what it's like dealing with Social Security these days. These examples may give readers an idea of why I think that the agency needs a greater number of well trained employees, not fewer. Once things get off the beaten track at Social Security for whatever reason, it takes forever to get things sorted out.
- Claimant gets approved by ALJ. No money is paid. We call the field office. The field office politely asks why we would be calling about payment in the case since the ALJ denied the claim. We politely tell them that, no, it was approved. They look and see that we're telling the truth, that it was approved. Someone just entered it wrong in the database. The hearing office tells us that it will be difficult to correct the mistake. I have little confidence that it will be corrected in the near future.
- We have to file a fee petition. It's approved. When nothing has been paid after a couple of months, we call the payment center. They say, yes, that it was approved but no one at the hearing office told them about it. They ask us to give them a month or so and they'll try to get it paid. I'm not confident this problem will be solved in a month.
- Claimant approved for benefits last December. She's paid. The attorney fee is paid. We close the file. The client calls back recently saying she's just gotten a notice that her Medicare has ended. We ask her to send us a copy of the notice and we'll look into it. She calls back the next day saying she's gotten a notice saying that her monthly checks have been cut off and that everything she's been paid is an overpayment. She sends us a copy of all this and it's as she says. No explanation is given. To repeat, there's no explanation whatsoever. There's just a curt demand that she immediately pay back all the money she's received. Before we can do anything she calls in to say that she's talked with the field office which says that maybe her earnings record has gotten mixed up with someone else's but that's just a guess. That sounds like a good guess since earnings showing up on her earnings record might explain the benefits being cut off and the overpayment notice but it doesn't explain the lack of due process. The client says she hasn't worked since the date she was found disabled. I'm pretty sure she's telling the truth. My guess is that I may not even know for sure what's going on any time soon. Meanwhile, the client isn't being paid.