Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Patchogue Incompetence

Delays in processing Social Security Disability claims are so rampant that they have resulted in Congressional hearings. The delays are not necessarily due to under staffing as much as they are due to incompetent staffing. The claims processing at the Patchogue field office has been worse in our experience compared to other local field offices.

Over the years, my office has consistently experienced more problems with the Patchogue field office than any other local field office. It defies credibility that Patchogue regularly claims it cannot find documents that I have submitted by certified mail and fax with a confirmation of receipt. The two most recent examples of Patchogue’s ineptitude came to light yesterday.

The first case concerns an application that I filed on May 5, 2011. When I did not receive a decision, I faxed a letter to Patchogue on November 14, 2011, advising that it had been over six months since I filed the claimant’s application, and asked when I could expect to receive a decision. Because Patchogue failed to respond, my office called yesterday, and was told by a Ms. Peterson that the claimant’s application had been denied in October, but that I wasn’t told because they did not have written notice that the claimant had appointed me as his representative. However, even if that were true, which it is not, Ms. Peterson failed to explain why she failed to send a copy of the denial notice to the claimant.

The claimant’s application package was sent by certified mail, and included form SSA-1696, which is written notice that I was the claimant’s representative. Additionally, we provided Patchogue with a copy of a letter dated May 17, 2011 that Mr. Grabiner, the District Manager of the Patchogue office, sent to me confirming that Patchogue had “received written notice that [the claimant] has appointed you to act as the representative in connection with this claim.”

Not surprisingly, neither Ms. Peterson, Mr. Grabiner, nor anyone else at Patchogue, was able to explain the error. Nor was anyone at Patchogue able to explain why they failed to respond to my November 14, 2011 letter, or phone calls regarding the same. Needless to say, due to Patchogue’s blunder the processing of the claimant’s application will be much delayed.

The second case involves an application that I had filed with Patchogue by mail and fax on October 27, 2011. Because I had not heard anything from Patchogue in response to the application, I had my assistant call them on December 15, 2011. Patchogue told my assistant that they were still “loading” applications from September, and to give them some time.

After discovering Patchogue’s incompetence with the first case discussed above yesterday, I directed my office to follow up on this other case immediately. Not surprisingly, Patchogue said that they did not have the application, and the representative transferred the call to the supervisor. My office left several messages and sent faxes, but the supervisor has failed to call back. Thus, another claimant will have to endure delays on their application due to Patchogue's failure to process an application properly or expeditiously.

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