Visit with DC Social Security Hearings Office Judges
In an effort to get the “Age Load” of pending DC cases under 2 years, several of the Social Security Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”) met with members of the Abrams Landau disability trial team as well as other members of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Social Security section. The invitation for a “Bench Bar Dialog with the Judges of the Washington, DC Office of Disability Adjudication and Review” asked some of the best lawyers from the DC Metropolitan area to come prepared with questions for the judges on how best to represent their clients before these experienced Federal disability decision makers.
The Herndon law firm strives to answer clients’ questions about “How long?” the case may take; “How Hard?” will it be to present the important evidence; and, “How much?” is at stake. Concerned over delays and difficulties trying cases in a timely fashion, Doug Landau, Lisa Beaman and Dianna Meredith drove into the District to meet face-to-face with the Federal judges who decide the cases in this area.
The DC Hearing office has undergone renovation with 4 Hearing rooms for, ideally, 4 judges. However, with the departure of Judge Bond and Judge Banks retired, the DC disability docket has become problematic. Furthermore the Falls Church office, where Doug Landau has successfully tried cases for disabled clients, is closing. “Security and parking were a challenge,” noted lawyer Landau, and “we had cases where the telephonic translator hung up and the telephone Vocational Expert for the Federal Government’s call was dropped in the middle of her testimony such that we had to come back and continue the trial months later!”
The DC judges’ goal is getting age cases reduced. There are some 7,000 pending cases. Most judges are teleworking when not in the office hearing evidence, though most can be found in the office on Wednesdays. Because of the rule to have evidence filed more than 5 days before the Hearing, it is imperative to get medical records to the Social Security Administration as soon as possible. Subpoenaed materials may take 75 days to reach the file, so it is important to get the disabled client’s log in portal information for records from such medical providers as Kaiser, University of Virginia, etc. Due to HIPAA and HOT, medical records requests should be instituted as soon as the case comes in and then routinely (& systematically) followed up all the way up to the date of the Hearing. The Administrative Law Judges shared with the ABRAMS LANDAU team the fact that they like to see medical records from specialists, LCSW and Psychotherapists notes that discuss difficulties with the Activities of Daily Living (“ADLs”) and not just psychiatric office visits.
Landau and his team then addressed the judges’ “pet peeves.” One is unprepared lawyers from other law firms always asking for adjournments because they are not ready to try the case. In cases where the lawyer has been retained close to the time of the Hearing, the judges may allow a continuance IF there has been no prior postponements. Generally the judges do not want continuance requests less than 30 days pre-Hearing.
Landau then addressed “special needs and services.” For Hearings, service dogs will be permitted WITH the correct paperwork. For claimants needing a translator, there is no opportunity to practice with the translator before the Hearing, to make sure that the dialect is able to be understood. Many translators are over the phone, as the Social Security Administration is trying to reduce costs and have more video and remote hearings to reduce overhead.
Never afraid to “Bell the Cat,” Landau asked the judges point blank what one has to do to win a case “On The Record” (“OTR”) prior to the Hearing, as the Herndon law office files a pre-Hearing brief in nearly every single case, and asks for an OTR decision in particularly compelling cases. The ABRAMS LANDAU trial was informed that there have been no “On The Record” decisions for over a year, and the judges said point blank that it is unlikely anyone would be getting one any time soon. In other Hearing offices (& the DC office in the past) Landau was able to show over 12 months of consistent treatment, symptoms documented by more than one doctor with specific exhibit numbers, dates, pages, etc. from the date of onset to the present, in order to get an OTR decision. If you or someone you know or care for is disabled, and needs help with Social Security Disability and there are questions about what laws apply, e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555) at once.