Will Your Elder Care Attorney Fight For You?
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
The very short version of this is: I won in court today. I hate court. My clients hate court. But I’ll do whatever it takes to get my clients what they deserve.
Today, I drove 60 miles to court in Bethlehem, PA to a Social Security office. My client and I went before an Administrative Law Judge trying to bring a close to a Social Security disability case that has its start in 1989. My client started receiving disability benefits in 1992, and needed them for all of nine months. He continued receiving checks until 1997 despite his protests. He never deposited those checks, but either returned them or held them (once the office stopped taking them back). He convinced the IRS that he wasn’t receiving the income anymore, but SSA wanted $75k in overpayments from him, despite the fact that he hadn’t gotten a dime he wasn’t entitled to.
Twelve years after the first notice of overpayment, we finally got to appear before a judge. I was ready with my argument, but I had also told my client not to expect a miracle – after all, this case had been open long enough to see first graders turn into college freshmen. We made our argument to the Judge, and the Judge issued an order on the record dismissing the overpayments in their entirety. Just like that, my client could open his mailbox for the first time in twenty years without anxiety over a letter from Social Security.
The client owes SSA nothing and is expecting a substantial refund of withheld payments. As you might imagine, the client was pretty happy. So was I. However, my client’s anxiety leading up to today’s hearing was palpable. I wasn’t worried, but I don’t relish the adrenaline shot that court provides. Some attorneys live on it and crave constant court time and conflict. I’m content to work my magic from my chair when I can, but I’m not afraid of going to court. When I do, I make the most of it – for example, earlier this year an administrative law judge approved payment for my client’s requested power wheelchair even though Medicaid denied the payment. I am currently pursuing that case in the Appellate Division.
When you’re talking to potential elder care attorneys, you should ask them if they appear in court with any regularity. Some attorneys go to court all the time, and it’s hard to keep up on all of the legislative and regulatory changes when you’re constantly on your feet. Some attorneys never go to court and their client’s results might suffer because of the attorney’s unwillingness to scrap in court (or their lack of aptitude at it). I’ll tell you again that I prefer the confines of my own office, but court doesn’t scare me and I’m not afraid to go if that aggression protects my client.
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