Finding the right representation in a social security disability claim is not easy. Most people that are disabled and unable to continue to work have little experience with hiring attorneys. More importantly, most disabled people are under great stress, and usually make the decision to hire a social security disability lawyer when under the added stress of having just received a social security disability denial letter.
Too many people select a social security disability attorney impulsively as if gulping down an unpleasant medication just to get it over with. Attorneys do not help with advertising slogans that mean next to nothing. Social Security disability attorneys with several lawyers routinely add the years of experience for all the attorneys and, for example, boast “20 years of experience” when they have 10 lawyers with 2 years of experience each! One national firm crows that they “are the most successful social security disability advocates” when all that really means is that they are the biggest social security disability representative firm in the country.
You need to cut through the marketing slogans and streamline the decision-making process to make a wise choice that is right for you. This is the first in five posts on how to simplify the decision making process and pick a social security disability attorney you will be happy with. Now you may be thinking, five articles to “simplify” the decision making? Fair point, but sometimes it takes a bit of planning to simply matters, so stay with me through all 5 posts.
To simplify the process, you need to consider the primary types or “flavors” of social security disability representatives. I find there are 3 critical “dimensions” of social security disability attorneys and representatives available in Texas and throughout the United States. Understanding each can help you make a better choice. I will address each in the coming weeks. For now, consider these:
Big vs. Small
Social security representation runs the gamut from solo lawyers to meg-firms like Binder and Binder, Freedom Disability and the Disability Group. If you will pardon the phrase, “size matters” not in the sense that big is best, but in the sense that the size of the organization you deal with in your claim for social security disability is a critical factor for you to consider.
National vs. Local
Social security disability laws and regulations are the same in Georgia as they are in Texas so social security disability attorneys and representives are not bound by State or regional laws and constraints. If you are looking for a social security disability lawyer in Dallas Texas, you will have the opportunity to hire a national firm from California or New Jersey. “Big” and “national” tend to go together: big social security disability firms are almost always “National” in scope. There are, on the other hand, solo or small attorney firms that will take a social security disability case anywhere.
So if social security disability laws and regulations are the same nationwide, what difference does it make whether your hire a local vs. national social security disability attorney? In my opinion, A LOT. Details are in Part 3 of this post.
Specialized in Social Security Disability vs. Not
Many personal injury law firms are adding social security disability representation to their practices, while other attorneys (like me) do only social security disability. Is this important? See Part 3 and we will consider this issue.
In Part 4 I will put it all together with hopefully solid advice.
Binder and Binder is the largest social security disability advocate firm in the country. I doubt there is a single TV viewer who has not seen attorney Charles Binder in his cowboy hat urging social security disability applicants to “let them take care of the government”.
The Wall Street Journal has written a recent article about attorneys Harry and Charles Binder titled “Two Lawyers Strike Gold in the U.S. Disability System”. The article indicates that the Binders as attorneys earn more in social security disability attorney fees than anyone else in the nation, and that ex-employees have said that Binder and Binder routinely withholds medical records it deems unfavorable to their client’s case. The article can be found at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203518404577096632862007046.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories
I have commented before about the Wall Street Journals series of articles on the social security disability system, and the general poor journalistic standards these articles seem to be upholding. This article is about the same as the prior ones.
The article suggests that there is something wrong with the Binder brothers making a lot of money in their disability practice. Apparently the Wall Street Journal finds that Wall Street investment bankers making millions by churning money and selling worthless investments is an example of the free market system at its finest, but it is reprehensible for the Binder brothers to make a good living by helping disabled people! Keep in mind those fees are not just lining the pockets of the Binder brothers, but pay for the substantial overhead, salaries, and advertizing of the Binder and Binder business.
Congressman Tom Coburn, the top Republican on a subcommittee on Social Security, is now calling for an investigation of Binder and Binder on the issue of withholding medical records.http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/12/23/Coburn-calls-for-Binder-Binder-review/UPI-98491324620881/#ixzz1hOT1v46m. Coburn has been a long time critic of the social security disability system, and has opening called for social security to approve fewer disability claims. It is naive to think he is just interested in reigning in the Binder and Binder firm.
Though some attorneys believe their ethical duty to “zealously represent” their clients may leave some wiggle room on what they choose to submit into evidence, one thing is clear: ALL Administrative Law Judges believe it is wrong for the social security disability attorney to withhold medical evidence. In my 20 years of social security disability practice in Dallas Fort Worth I have never withheld evidence, and I have worked hard to make sure there is not even a suggestion that I have done so. Every medical file has some evidence that may not be supportive of a disability claim. The social security disability attorney’s job is to explain why that evidence is less credible than the favorable evidence – not try to bury it.
An experienced social security disability attorney must maintain high integrity before the ALJs that decide disability. While I know of no ALJ that would deny a meritorious claim because she does not trust the lawyer, the tone of respect and trust your disability attorney sets in the court room is critical to your success in securing social security disability benefits.
I make no judgment as to what has gone on at Binder and Binder. It is clear, however, that they now have a huge credibility problem with the ALJs. It may be much easier for a national like Binder and Binder to make these kinds of errors giving their heavy reliance on non-attorney staff. In my office, I personally handle the submission of medical evidence. You should expect no less from any social security disability attorney you hire.
As a national lawfirm with a bigfoot print, Binder and Binder makes a big target. But I would submit the real target is their, and my, clients: disabled Americans.
Binder and Binder, and I pursue a very different social security disability practice: they are nation wide, and I focus only on the Dallas Fort Worth, North and East Texas area. I believe, that social security disability claimants should hire a local, experienced attorney with whom they can have a more personal relationship. But that does not mean Binder and Binder handles disability cases in the “”wrong way”, or that they are unethical.