Monday, June 21, 2010

Benefits After A Federal Court Remand

In the last month, I received fully favorable decisions for two Social Security Disability (“SSD”) claimants whose application denials I got reversed in federal court. On remand, each Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) not only approved SSD benefits, but also approved a fee agreement between myself and the claimant. However, the fee agreement expressly states that it is not valid following a federal court remand, and that a fee petition would be submitted.

When the first fee agreement was mistakenly approved, it resulted in a delay of the releasing of benefits to the claimant and myself. I wanted to ensure that a similar mistake would not happen again. Therefore, the day after a hearing before ALJ Seymour Fier, which was a federal court remand, I sent him a letter notifying him that I would be submitting a fee petition and not a fee agreement. I attached a copy of the fee petition, signed by the claimant, agreeing to the 25% contingency fee.

Despite having fax and electronic filing confirmation that ALJ Fier received my letter advising him that I was proceeding via fee petition, he approved a fee agreement. Since the fee petition seeks a larger fee than the fee agreement, it could be that the ALJ is seeking to drive a wedge between the claimant and myself. In order to try to prevent that very scenario, I submitted the claimant’s signed petition agreeing to the contingent fee, but ALJ Fier inexplicably ignored it, which unfortunately, may delay the release of the claimant’s benefits.

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