I often speak with social security disability claimants who have been “fired” by their social security disability attorney or representative. They are understandably frustrated, if not outright mad. Social security disability applicants rightful ask themselves: they took my case in the first place – what changed? Many times the social security disability claimant has received a form letter of dismissal with no real explanation of why the attorney withdrew from the case. Often the social security disability attorney or firm does not provide a copy of the disability file, but rather merely encloses a short withdrawal agreement.
Social security disability claimants wonder, in addition to what happened in the representation:
- “Shouldn’t they have given me my file?”
- “Are they gong to try and charge a fee?”
- “What do I do now?”
- “Will I be able to find a social security attorney now that have been fired?”
If you have been fired by your social security disability attorney or firm, you should immediately seek an experienced local social security disability attorney. The mere fact that another attorney/firm has withdrawn from the case does NOT mean you will be unable to find a social security disability attorney. In 20+ years of handling only social security disability cases I have been successful on many claims that another attorney dropped. To be sure, if your attorney has fired you, there is a reason, and it almost certainly based upon some fact(s) that now lead the attorney to believe her chances of winning are slim. In my experience, usually social security attorneys withdraw because they have seen something troubling in the evidence, including the following:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Treatment “non-compliance”: (failure to follow doctor’s advice, or take medications properly)
- Work activity after the alleged onset date
Social security disability applicants that have been fired by their attorney should carefully consider whether those factors are present in their claim.
With regard to the “file” claimant’s should remember that nearly all social security disability files are fully electronic, and therefore available from the Social Security Administration. A preoccupation with these materials being returned by the former attorney is in my opinion a waste of time. Original documents provided by the claimant to the attorney are more critical and should be sought for return. But in my opinion the higher priority for the fired social security disability applicant is to find another lawyer rather than chasing the prior disability representation firm that now has no incentive to spend time on your matter.
It is, however, critical to clarify whether the former attorney will seek to charge a fee. Any fee the prior attorney wants to charge must be approved b the social security administration via the “Fee Petition” process. If the prior attorney files a Fee Petition, the soica security administration must secure your opinion as to whether you feel that prior attorney deserves a fee. Social security disability applicants that have been fired should look carefully at the notice of withdrawal: does the attorney “waive” their right to a fee? Any attorney looking at your claim will want a copy of that letter.
Many social security disability applicants fired on the eve of an Administrative Law Judge hearing are particularly upset. Know, however, that all ALJs will realize the last-minute problem was not your fault, and give you time to secure another attorney if you ask her to do so. But you MUST go the hearing: don’t give up and fail to attend the scheduled hearing or the ALJ will dismiss your claim.