request medical/mental health records? When a client is awaiting a hearing and has a change in diagnosis or has an additional health or mental health issue, and lets the attorney know this, how does the attorney respond? Do they get the additional records or ask the client to do so to submit them? At what point in time is a client assigned an attorney when a firm takes on a case with multiple lawyers?
I agree with the above attorney. Not all law firms are the same. Some firms will take care of ordering medical records for you and fronting that expense, which you typically pay back if you win your case. Others do not do that and ask the client’s to get the records. This information is likely in your fee agreement. SSA initially orders the records, so if you are waiting for a hearing date, your attorney might not update the records until closer to your actual hearing to make sure the Judge has all your current records without any duplicates. It is not unusual for firms with multiple lawyers to work as a “team” on cases until you get a hearing date, and then assign you one particular attorney to attend the hearing with you.If you are unhappy with the way something is being done at your attorney’s office, try talking to them and see if you can understand why they do it that particular way, or if something else can be done to make you happy.
Best of luck in obtaining your benefits.
I agree with the prior responses that you have received and I just want to say that this question is very troubling because first, you ought to know what the plan for your case is going to be and second, you certainly ought to know which lawyer plans to actually handle your claim. This is one major reason that I urge people to hire an experienced local Social Security disability attorney rather than a large firm or one of the disability representation non-lawyer firms (the ones you see advertising on daytime TV).
At this point, I think you need to contact the firm and ask your questions directly. If you don't get an adequate response then consider whether or not to part ways and find a new lawyer to help with your case. You mention that you may be awaiting a hearing, so if you have been waiting for a significant time, it might be best to stick with your current firm BUT you certainly ought to know whether they are going to get and submit records or whether you are expected to do this and you also certainly ought to know who is personally handling gathering evidence for your claim.
Thank you for your post:
"If a client has a mental health and physical disability and a lawyer agrees to take on their case, at what point does the lawyer request medical/mental health records? -------- Usually when the SSA no longer orders them and pays for them. To order them instead of having the SSA order them, means a big fee charged by the medical provider for the records copies - which is the claimant's responsibility to pay. As such, most of us have the SSA order them and pay for them, so our client's don't have that bill.
" When a client is awaiting a hearing and has a change in diagnosis or has an additional health or mental health issue, and lets the attorney know this, how does the attorney respond? ----------- Depends on the attorney. For me, I record this information in my client's file. Then, when it is time to order periodic updated medical records, I'd order them. You do not generally want to order the medical records every week, simply because of a change, because the client will be bill each and every time by the medical provider for the copies. It can get extremely expensive, because many states do not have a reasonable protective cap on what the medical providers can charge their patients for records copies.
"Do they get the additional records or ask the client to do so to submit them? -------- I never have my client submit anything - it must ALL come to me, so I can review it and use it properly. However, I do give my clients the opportunity to discuss the records copies with their provider, because sometimes the provider will cut them a break on the cost, compared to if a letter comes ordering the records. However, in my practice, the letter requesting medical records is actually signed by and "from" the patient/client, with the request that the records be sent to "client", c/o my office address and fax number. That way the bill for copies properly gets addressed to the client, and not accidentally get billed to me, the lawyer. I do the legal work, I do not act as a loan shark for the client, generally.
"At what point in time is a client assigned an attorney when a firm takes on a case with multiple lawyers? -------- Your retainer agreement or legal fee agreement should state on it and be signed by the lawyer - as should your SSA-1696 Appointment of Representative form. If you are with a large firm, and don't even know what lawyer you hired (nor how good he may or may not be) you may be with a volume driven firm that does not provide much individual attention to its clients/cases, but relies on mass volume and not terribly high win rate, to make its fortune. I would tend to recommend using a lawyer that you can speak to, communicate with, who actually works on his own cases himself, and has a 90+% win rate, not a 70% win rate.
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