Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What do you need a lawyer for?

On Monday I had a meeting at the Social Security office in Jacksonville. They needed to add me into the system and grant me privileges to view my clients' files that for some reason couldn't be done over the phone or Skype and took ten minutes to complete. These people mean business when it comes to data security. She added my profile to it, wrote the confirmation code, put the said code in some other system, texted my phone with an activation code and then asked me to log in to put that in as well. It wasn't really necessary for me to be there in person, but I guess that they're not used to having lawyers being the ones with mobility issues and having a hard time getting around not just the claimants. And as my friend pointed out, they must think everybody coming in is from the area. It's about an hour and a half in the car to get there and as you guessed it- I don't drive. We got there the night before, stayed at a hotel, so I wouldn't be late and hoping she'd see me a bit earlier. As it turns out she made me wait and was a bit late herself, but I didn't really mind. For a while I was sitting in their waiting room. I got to see people walking in and out and having conversations. It was a typical federal agency waiting room with a grey and brown decor that felt lifted from the 70's. And it was a new building. It really took me back to all those long hours spent waiting in Immigration centers. I don't know why they can't make these places nicer and more pleasant.  As I waiting two women were waiting for another thing- the hearing. A lady who identified herself as a stenographer soon came along and they started a conversation. She was very talkative, eager and wanted to put their minds at ease. She described the judge, the room and what the hearing would look like. The women they responded that they wanted to reschedule the hearing, that they had some medical records meeting and would prefer to consult an attorney. The stenographer encouraged them to go ahead anyway saying "What will a lawyer do?". It was none of my business so I didn't say anything. It's not like going to look for clients in Jacksonville, so I'm not invested in this anyway, but you do need a lawyer in a Social Security hearing. It is my experience that often people present the wrong type of evidence, don't know what things will present their case better, what elements you need to prove and highlight them better.  Remember: SSA has a very specific definition of disability, it's not as simple as having an impairment of some kind.Telling somebody they don't need a lawyer without knowing much about the condition or having seen their file to see what they submitted is very dangerous. Given that a social security attorney is typically paid through SSA and is strongly limited as to how and what for can be compensated I don't quite get the benefit of not getting one. As I continued to wait a very agitated man showed up. In a suit, on a cellphone. An attorney. And then something amazing happened. He came up too the receptionist and demanded they receive faxes from his office for him. Strong willed and controlling he meant business and was not here to play. And the people who usually seem very dismissive on the phone, like they do you a favor because they answer were kind and responsive and doing what he asked. The things you learn by people watching at the Social Security Office!

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