Thursday, March 27, 2014

Patchogue Problems Persist

Social Security’s Patchogue District Office has a history of failing to provide the same level of service compared to other offices. Although their mistakes are eventually corrected at the hearing level, the delay imposes hardship on claimants in the interim. 

 On October 4, 2012, I filed an application seeking Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits for a 56 year old landscaper, who suffers from diabetes and arthritis. The claimant’s SSA-16 form stated that the claimant stopped working for FedEx on July 7, 2012, which specified that the FedEx employment should be considered an unsuccessful work attempt (“UWA”) because it lasted less than three months. Since FedEx was irrelevant because it was an UWA, the claimant’s SSA-3368 form stated that the claimant stopped working, as a landscaper, in 2007. 

In June 2012, the State agency found the claimant became disabled from his heavy work as a landscaper on July 7, 2012, by giving controlling weight to the opinion of the treating physician. The obvious question was why was the claimant found disabled as of July 7, 2012 instead of 2007. To learn the answer we tried to call Patchogue. 

Despite repeated messages, nobody from the Patchogue District Office would return our calls after we learned that the State agency applied a July 7, 2012 onset date. We had to call another local office to try get information. Ms. Henpfling from the Riverhead District Office told us that Patchogue failed to follow protocol when a claimant’s application contains discrepant onset dates in the SSA 16 and SSA 3368. Without making any attempt to contact our office, and without the permission or authority of the claimant or us, Patchogue took it upon themselves to cross out the year 2007 on the claimant’s SSA 3368, and handwrote in July 7, 2012 for the onset date. 

Patchogue’s error was corrected by the Jericho hearing office today, as the claimant received a fully favorable decision with the correct onset date. The end result is that the claimant will be awarded more than a year of additional benefits, but it took nearly two years to get the error corrected. Not only did the delay make it difficult for the claimant to pay his bills, but it also wasted the time of the hearing office, all of which could have been avoided if Patchogue would answer a phone.

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