Earlier in the week I had posted an e-mail I had received about the serious problems attorneys have in getting the Social Security Administration to simply recognize that they are representing particular clients. The post attracted a number of comments from attorneys expressing the same frustration. I think this comment, obviously from a Social Security employee, posted anonymously, is worthy of greater attention since it helps explain why the problem exists and because it demonstrates one of many serious systems problems at Social Security:
This problem is not going away. It results from:
1)A terribly complicated process for adding/changing representatives.
simplify it for those who aren't agency employees. Key in attorney
info into the attorney database and link it to the claims. Go to the
claims processing systems (one or Social Security Claims another for SSI
claims) and pull the attorney information into the claims processing
systems. Then you go to the the disability claims system (medical file
that is sent to DDS and subsequently ODAR) and pull the attorney
information into it. Then you have create the acknowledgment letters to
mail to the attorneys and store copies of the actual documents in the
electronic folder. If you don't complete all those steps then the
attorney is not correctly added and one (or more) components (DDS, ODAR,
AC, PC) may not be aware the attorney is involved. Or you may do all
that and forget to send the acknowledgement letter, which means the
attorney never receives confirmation. Here's the kicker, let's say you
sign up to represent a claimant and their claim is already pending at
ODAR. The FO is the only component that can take all the steps above.
Needless to say, it's hard for FO employees to prioritize that work when
the claim is pending at ODAR and may not get a hearing for another 6
months. Even FO employees who understand the need to process the
attorney forms timely will still make numerous makes due to the number
of steps involved in adding or changing representatives.
to the mix, ODAR can (and does) add the attorney to their case
processing system, which will make sure the representative gets the
notices from ODAR. BUT, if the FO fails to do it's part, then the
payment center or the FO processing the ALJ determination, may
accidentally process the claim without the attorney information.
is not enough staff in many offices to process these actions timely.
As a result, These actions pile up. Attorneys follow-up and send
duplicate packages, which makes the problem worse. Resentment builds up
on the part of FO employees towards attorneys, which demotivates FO
employees regarding this workload.
The problems may lessen if
the Agency is properly staffed. However, even if it is properly
staffed, there will always be a level of dysfunction in this area due to
the complexity of the process/system for adding and changing
representatives. They aren't going away and it's unrealistic to expect