I was recently retained by an individual who several years ago hired a “big name” national company to assist him at his disability hearing. The client didn’t realize it at the time, but this “big name” office is located out of state and hires both non-attorney and attorney representatives to attend hearings with their clients. All of his communication with the company was by mail and phone.
After the judge denied the claim, and after the Appeals Council denied review of the judge’s decision, the “big name” company sent a letter to my new client indicating that they would not pursue further litigation on his behalf, but that he should feel free to consult with an attorney of his choosing to file a district court lawsuit, promising that they would “cooperate if contacted by a law firm you retain.”
My client did not have in his possession a copy of the Appeals Council denial, a short 2 to 3 page document containing information that I need in order to prepare his lawsuit for filing. My client also did not retain a copy of a work preclusive medical assessment form that he provided to the “big name” company but which was purportedly received too late to be submitted to the Appeals Council for review. This medical assessment could be pivotal to my new client’s success on a new benefits application.
Several weeks, several faxes, and several phone calls later, I finally had the opportunity to speak with a human being at this “big name” company. I was told that they would not forward a copy of the Appeals Council denial and that my client needed to contact his local SSA office to obtain the document. They also said that they were unable to forward the medical assessment unless they received a request directly from the client and only if he executed a medical release. (On at least three occasions, my office had already provided them with a medical release.)
I asked the staff member, Why did your company even bother offering to “cooperate” with this client’s new attorney? She didn’t offer any valuable response.
Contrast this with a telephone conversation I was involved in today. A former client called in to ask me to send him documents related to his closed disability claim, so that he could provide them to a new attorney for possible district court representation. We had previously determined that success at the federal court level was unlikely, but urged him to seek a second opinion. Instead of refusing the call, I spent at least fifteen minutes on the phone explaining to him how federal lawsuits work, providing information about filing a pro se complaint if he was unable to find an attorney to assist him, providing possible sources for referrals to different lawyers, discussing appeals deadlines, and offering to mail him a copy of his file.
You don’t have to be a big company to provide excellent service. And sometimes, bigger is a BIG mistake. The attorney you choose can make a BIG difference in your claim. So choose wisely.