Social Security Disability Attorney Henry Shapiro recently lectured a group of law students at St. Johns University of School of Law in Jamaica, Queens on Social Security Disability. Mr. Shapiro spoke about starting a career in the field of Social Security Disability Law and what it’s like working for Turley, Redmond, Rosasco &Rosasco. Although Mr. Shapiro touched on a variety of subject matters such as the administrative process, drafting appeals and legal memos, he also stressed why it is important to hire an attorney when fighting for Social Security Disability benefits and the major differences between a Social Security Disability Attorney and a Social Security Disability Advocate.
Getting Social Security Disability benefits is becoming harder than ever before to get a favorable decision without a lawyer. Mr. Shapiro says, “In an evolving climate where Administrative Law Judges are enlisting medical and vocational experts on the majority of their cases, it has become increasingly difficult for a claimant to obtain disability benefits without representation. He adds, ” A skilled and experienced attorney can cross-examine and interrogate the experts and work to lay out the evidence in your case to develop a winning theory that will allow the Administrative Law Judge to approve your case on the merits. The importance of having an attorney and bringing your ‘A’ game at the administrative hearing is magnified when reviewing the level of success at the Appeals Council for claimants denied at the hearing level.”
For the eager litigators and those looking to hone in on their interrogation skills, Mr. Shapiro shed some light on the structure of Administrative Law Judge hearings, which are generally known as a non-adversarial process, although that is changing as well. Mr. Shapiro stated, “Over the last year, the Social Security Disability program has been receiving publicity for the wrong reasons. Fraud perpetrated by a select number of physicians and claimants in an effort to obtain disability benefits has altered the disability culture that we have come to know. As a result, the Social Security Disability program has become the new whipping boy for Congressional debate.”
As a precaution going forward, many Administrative Law Judges are using resources that were previously far from common practice. While the Social Security Administration does not employ an attorney to represent its interests at the hearing, medical and vocational experts are growing in popularity as a tool to give judges evidence in the form of expert testimony that often times will result in medical or vocational findings contrary to what your treating physician indicates. Mr. Shapiro said, “The well-versed attorney will need to thoroughly review his or her file and evidence of record and develop a theory and strategy in anticipation of cross-examining the expert witnesses called by the Administrative Law Judge. The attorney must think on his or her feet, have the ability to conduct a direct examination of his or her client, as well as a cross-examination of potentially multiple expert witnesses, including physicians. The attorney must research and learn about various medical conditions so he or she can question a physician about something the physician has been practicing for decades – a difficult task but one that requires the preparation akin to that of a trial.”
Mr. Shapiro also cautions about using a ‘Social Security Disability Advocate’ rather than an attorney in Social Security Disability Claims. The Social Security Disability application process is a very delicate structure, involving claimants who are facing dire financial and medical straits and often are looking for legal assistance and someone who will listen. Turley, Redmond Rosasco & Rosasco has become known throughout New York as being a firm that does not practice as an assembly line. Mr. Shapiro says, “The attorneys and paralegals take the time to answer all questions and a personal touch is provided throughout the application process. This is not the norm however, as many non-attorney advocacy groups have increased in size and enlist “advocates,” not attorneys, to handle the serious process of Administrative Law Judge hearings.”
The hearing will determine the outcome of your claim and have a major effect on your financial status because by the time of the hearing, a claimant has likely been out of work for well over one year. Advocates are sent to do whatever hearings are on the schedule that day, and do not have the ability or the knowledge of the Social Security laws and regulations to invest the same amount of time and file preparation into a claimant and his or her file when compared to an attorney.
Mr Shapiro explains, “It is becoming far too commonplace where claimants receive an ‘Unfavorable Decision’ from an Administrative Law Judge after appearing with an advocate and then call an attorney explaining that they did not even meet or speak with the advocate until the morning of the hearing, they were not prepared for their testimony and the Administrative Law Judge did not know everything about their medical condition and impairments.” He adds, “An advocate tends to be a hired gun rather than an attorney who invests time and effort into every file and helps guide you from the initial application through the administrative hearing. When your financial future is on the line and you are forced to testify in front of an Administrative Law Judge, wouldn’t you want an attorney who practices law and specializes in Social Security and its programs rather than a non-attorney representative who just knows you as a name on a piece of paper?”
Should you have any questions about social security disability or need help with your claim, please feel free to call, click the chat button or contact us at the top of this page.