Interview with Michael Schultz

How long did you work for the Social Security Administration?
Over 30 years, less than 35 years.

I'm not saying where I worked. I was what they commonly call a Claims Representative. Primarily for SSI. And I worked in a field office, not sheltered from the public in a Regional Office or Central Office.

I primarily took claims -- Disability and Aged. I also did reviews, called redeterminations, worked overpayments, representative payee applications and accountings, the whole shebang.
Why should someone applying for Social Security trust your advice?
Because it makes sense.

They should also trust their claims representative and their disability examiner for disability.

SSA and state disability agency employees have no personal interest in the result of your claim. Their personal involvement is the desire to keep their jobs. They want to clear your case as fast as possible, because there's always 20 more people in line behind you.

If you're eligible, they'll approve you. If not, they'll deny you.

I did plenty of both. I signed off on millions of dollars of benefits. I also denied millions of dollars of benefits. Often to the same people (at different times).

Claims reps and state agency employees are trained to be technicians. I looked at the law, and the facts of the case, and compared them. If the facts of a case said someone met the legal requirements, they got approved. If not, not.

State agency disability examiners do the same thing, but with medical issues I was not trained to decide. I accepted their decision.

Lawyers, on the other hand, are taught to "win" the case no matter whether their client meets the legal requirements or not.
Should someone hire a lawyer before they apply for disability benefits?

I know some lawyers give that advice, and it's self-serving.

They get paid 25% of all your back benefits. So if you apply for benefits, and 4 months later you're found disabled by the state agency examiner, the lawyer gets 25% of your back pay, even though they didn't really do anything. So it's a quick, easy check for that lawyer. Paid for by you.

Lawyers do not help people during the period of an initial claim and reconsideration. That's because the Social Security claims representative will fill all the forms out for you. The state agency will send off for your medical records, and make the best decision they can based on the information they see in your medical records. And nobody gives a rat's behind what your lawyer is arguing, because they're technicians going by facts, not lawyer BS.

The time to hire a lawyer is right after you file for a hearing. Do NOT hire the lawyer first. Especially do not allow them to file the hearing paperwork for you. Go to the Social Security office first. File the hearing and associated medical forms to update your condition. Get that started RIGHT AWAY.

THEN find a lawyer to represent you. If you let them file the forms -- some lawyers deliberately delay the hearing, (because 25% of a 3-year back check is more money than 25% of a 2-year back check.)
Does the agency want you revealing this information?
I'm not telling any secrets. I'm no Edward Snowden, that's for sure! :)

I cannot tell what agency upper management wants. They have different priorities.

I am sure that any claims representative and disability examiner would be happy for you to read this book and follow my advice, because it would help them enormously.

As I said, they want to clear your claim ASAP -- with a correct decision based on the facts. That should be your goal as well. So everything you can do to help yourself -- honestly -- helps them as well.

Frankly, I had many many claimants who hurt themselves -- and me -- by not following this advice. Many times I wished I could speak frankly.

Example: you filed a claim for disability and it was denied. You're sent a denial notice that tells you if you disagree you have 60 days to file an appeal. If you're really too sick to work, and have no money, why should it take you more than 60 days to get your tail bone into the SSA office and file the appeal? It shouldn't.

Yet, many claimants waited over 60 days. Could they still file the appeal? Yes, by giving me some phony story about what took them so long. But it took extra time to write that up, and then write up my decision to send the appeal on to the state agency anyway.

Time I wished I could have dedicated to clearing something important off my desk, instead of covering their thoughtless behinds.

In the meantime, they did without money.

So we both lost.

And that happened over and over and over again.
Published 2013-09-07.
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Books by This Author

Get Social Security Checks
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 63,200. Language: English. Published: May 27, 2011 by Richard Stooker. Categories: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Personal finance
Everything you need to know to get the most Social Security checks you are entitled to -- as fast as possible. Ex Social Security claims representative (30 years with the agency) "pulls back the curtain" about what it takes to get approved for retirement, disability, SSI and Medicare. Cuts through the bureaucratic red tape and obfuscation and tells you in plain language what the law says.