Information for prospective claimants, and disability telephone intake form.

By Thomas E. Bush

Excerpted from Social Security Disability Practice

When a claimant telephones with a disability case, the first order of business is to find out how far along the case is and whether there is a problem with the time limit for appeal that needs immediate attention. It is best not to rely on the claimant’s description of the administrative process. Instead, ask the claimant to read you portions of the latest denial letter. Reconsideration determinations usually but not always are entitled “Notice of Reconsideration,” and usually but not always begin: “Upon receipt of your request for reconsideration . . .” If the denial letter does not start out that way it still could be a reconsideration denial. Ask the claimant to read you what it says about how to appeal. Is the next step to request reconsideration or to request a hearing? Note that the claimant could be involved in a pilot project that skips reconsideration.

Ask the claimant to read you the date on the notice. If the date is more than 65 days ago and the claimant has not yet appealed, find out why no appeal has been made and look for “good cause” for missing the deadline. See 20 C.F.R. §404.911. If no good cause exists for missing the deadline, the claimant will have to start the case over with a new application.

Practice Tip:

If the claimant still has time to appeal but is at the 11th hour, advise the claimant to go immediately to the social security office. At the local office, all the appeal papers can be completed and the claimant will be given a copy of the appeal form that shows that it was timely filed. A telephone call to the local office will not protect the claimant’s rights. SSA requires that the appeal be submitted within 65 days. Although a postmark on the envelope transmitting the appeal showing that it was mailed on the 65th day is acceptable, if that envelope is lost in the mail, it is unlikely that a claimant will be able to prove timeliness to SSA’s satisfaction.

Use the Social Security Disability Telephone Intake Form (§165) to gather information from the claimant and to schedule an appointment. This form also may be used as instructions to your secretary to send the claimant a letter confirming the appointment (§166) and to send the claimant a copy of the Client Questionnaire (§167). The questionnaire is a great timesaver for an attorney; but it is long and will take the claimant quite a while to complete. During your telephone call with the claimant, explain about the questionnaire-how long it is and how important it is that you have all this information.

The Claimant Questionnaire asks very few questions about mental impairments. You may ask some claimants with mental impairments to complete an additional questionnaire, the Claimant Psychiatric Questionnaire (§168); but before you give this questionnaire to any claimant, make sure it is appropriate. It is only appropriate for relatively articulate claimants who have insight into their mental problems.

§164     Literature for Prospective Clients

Many people who telephone the office of a social security disability attorney are not ready to schedule an appointment. For such people, you need to have some literature, tailored to the practices of your office, available to send them. We send three brochures published by our office, “Social Security Disability and SSI Claims—Your Need for Representation,” “Preparing for Your Social Security Disability or SSI Hearing” and “Dealing with the Social Security Administration.” In addition, we send the following memorandum.

§164.1  Memorandum: Common Questions About Applying for Disability Benefits

Download the Memorandum: Common Questions About Applying for Disability Benefits in Microsoft Word format.

§165     Form: Social Security Disability Telephone Intake

Download theSocial Security Disability Telephone Intake in Microsoft Word.

Thomas E. Bush has devoted his practice to Social Security disability issues since 1977.  He was elected to NOSSCR’s Board of Directors in 1988, and was President of NOSSCR for the 1997-98 term.  He is the author of Social Security Disability Practice, from which this article is excerpted.