Helpful tips and Other areas of concern with respect to ensuring adequate representation.

  1. Look to contracting with an experienced representative in your local geographic area and avoid national assembly-line advocates that tend to depersonalize their services; are almost always not available for face-to-face contact; and, which almost always lean toward “warehousing” disability claims, resulting in inflated past-due benefits and concomitant fees. It is common knowledge that an individual’s chance for securing a favorable decision is greatly increased at the hearing level. In other words, there is little financial incentive for an advocate to aggressively pursue a claimant’s interests before the case reaches the hearing level.
  2. Do not look to the Social Security Administration to proactively protect your interests when it comes to an advocate’s representation services. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article points out that when questioned about the matter, the agency responded that “…it is not in the business of policing firms…”. Also, the SSA benchmark for complaint processing as far as a representative/advocate is concerned is very high and is a lengthy, cumbersome ordeal. In other words, when it comes to such questions of inadequate services or unethical behavior on the part of your representative, you are essentially on your own… While not “illegal” per se, the act of warehousing claims for the purpose of inflating representation fees is at best unethical.
  3. In general, the current fee “cap” in fee agreement situations is $6,000 and is subject to modification by the Commissioner of SSA. Given the continuing hearing backlogs, and the additional time associated with the initial and reconsideration processing, fees in the thousands of dollars will continue for the foreseeable future.
  4. Even with a “contingency” fee agreement, you as the claimant may still incur significant upfront and out-of-pocket costs such as securing existing evidence, securing additional exams and the like.
  5. You should understand that a representative can still petition the SSA for a fee from you even if your claim has been “finally” denied. The same holds true if you terminate the representative before a final administrative action is taken.
  6. The bottom-line is an individual filing for SSA disability benefits must be a “self- advocate” and actively engage in the process. You cannot always rely upon your paid advocate to put your interest first, and the SSA cannot by law serve as claimant advocate. Hence, The Ponder Media Group effort by way of this DVD, to help an individual recognize and apply the “RULES OF THE GAME”.
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