The Practice of Social Security Disability Law

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Course Description

This unprecedented course combines the core knowledge of Social Security Disability law with the practical skills commonly performed on the job. Participants will gain a basic understanding of Social Security Disability law and learn tips for effective representation at the various stages of the administrative and Federal process. Participants then will have the opportunity, through simulated cases, to apply that knowledge in commonly performed tasks. For example, participants will question a claimant and vocational expert at a simulated hearing and receive feedback from retired Administrative Law Judges or other Social Security practitioners.

Bridge to Employment

Many educational institutions provide little or no training in the field of Social Security Disability law, and many recent graduates are unaware of this very specialized area of the law. As a result, employers have great difficulty determining which applicants would be best suited for the job.

We have designed this course with employers in mind. By taking this course, you will distinguish yourself from other job applicants. In addition to acquiring a basic understanding of Social Security Disability law, you will learn how to perform practical legal tasks, such as participating at a simulated administrative hearing.

We reach out to employers who are hiring, and our goal is for every course participant to receive a job offer. However, we cannot guarantee that this course will lead to employment.

Learning Outcomes
  • Know the hierarchy of Social Security sources of law
  • Know the Social Security Disability adjudicatory process
  • Know the definition of disability under the Social Security Act
  • Know the five-step sequential evaluation process
  • Know the role of medical and vocational evidence
  • Gain insight into effective representation at the DDS and hearing levels
  • Practice skills, such as representing a claimant at a simulated hearing
Payment - 2019 Special

The cost of the course is You Choose Your Tuition! At the end of the course, we will send you a blank invoice. You decide the amount to pay.  

But you must agree to attend most (preferably all) sessions. This course has a lot of instructors, and we do not want sessions to have insufficient attendance. If you are not able to make this time commitment, please leave these spots open for others.

CLE

Please let us know if you are interested in CLE. We can reach out to your particular state to see if the course will qualify for CLE credits. We, however, cannot make any representations that this course will qualify for CLE credits.

Technical Information

We use the Adobe Connect application for this course, and you will have to download the application to attend.

You can download the application for Windows and for Mac. The application exists for mobile devices, but we would not recommend it. We think that the course is best viewed on a desktop or a laptop computer. Mac users have reported no problems using the Adobe Connect application.

After downing the application, you should perform a diagnostic test to ensure that there are no computer or network issues.

We do not anticipate that you will have any problems downloading the application of performing the diagnostic test. But please contact us if you experience any problems.

Webcam and Microphone

You will need a webcam, microphone, and computer speaker to participate in this course. The webcam will be used primarily during the simulated hearings. The microphone will be used to communicate throughout the course. We will not provide dial-in service to hear the sessions.

Many desktop and laptop computers already have these devices. If not, you can purchase a relatively inexpensive plug-and-play webcam with integrated microphone. I use the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, with built-in microphone. It is available at Amazon for $50, but you would be fine purchasing a less expensive webcam.

Accessibility Features

Adobe Connect has accessibility features for individuals with visual, auditory, and mobility issues. You can learn more about these features here.

We can also provide closed captioning services. We will not provide closed captioning services unless requested.

Please contact us to assist you with any accessibility features.

What is Social Security Disability law?

Social Security Disability law governs the administration of Federal benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Title II generally provides a cash benefit to qualified individuals based on prior work activity. Title XVI generally provides a cash benefit to qualified individuals based on need.

The disability adjudication process has an administrative level and a Federal court level. An attorney or a non-attorney can represent a claimant seeking disability benefits at the administrative level, but only an attorney can represent a claimant at the Federal court level.  According to Social Security regulations, a non-attorney can represent a claimant if the non-attorney, among other things, is generally known to have a good character and reputation, and is capable of giving valuable help in connection with the disability claim.

What are the employment options for representing claimants?

The main options are working for an established Social Security practice or starting your own practice. An established Social Security practice can include a traditional law firm, a legal aid clinic, or an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) firm.

What tasks would I be expected to perform?

If you are representing claimants, tasks can vary considerably depending, among other things, on the level where the claim is pending and how an employer has organized the practice.

The disability adjudication process has an administrative level and a Federal court level.  Some Social Security practices focus exclusively at the administrative or Federal court level, while other practices handle cases at both levels. If a practice focuses exclusively at one level, it is usually at the administrative level.

At the administrative level, tasks can include interviewing clients, developing medical records and other evidence, participating at an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), or writing a brief to an ALJ or the Appeals Council. At the Federal court level, tasks can include filing a complaint, writing legal briefs, and presenting oral arguments. These tasks may be assigned differently, depending on the Social Security practices. For example, some practices may allow only attorneys to represent an individual at an administrative hearing while non-attorneys handle the other case management tasks.

Craig Ormson

Instructor

With more than 14 years of experience at the Social Security Administration, Craig knows first-hand the intense, careful craft of serving as a successful Social Security Disability law attorney. He served as the lead agency counsel on several high-profile Federal regulations, Federal class actions, and Agency initiatives, and has argued before several Federal Courts of Appeals and District Courts. Craig has a Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Wisconsin International Law Journal. He is a licensed attorney in the State of Wisconsin.

Honorable David G. Hatfield (retired)

Instructor

Judge Hatfield worked in the Social Security Administration from 1976 until his retirement in 2012, serving in such key positions as the Acting Chief Judge, Assistant Regional Chief Judge, Hearing Office Chief Judge for the Seven Fields Hearing Office, Hearing Office Chief Judge for the Pittsburgh Hearing Office, Administrative Appeals Judge with the Appeals Council, and Director of the Office of Civil Actions. Judge Hatfield has written and taught extensively in his field. He was a faculty member for new Administrative Law Judge training since 1990, and was in charge of Supplemental Training for all new Administrative Law Judges. He has testified before Congress regarding the Social Security disability program, and has been a frequent speaker on Social Security matters. He received his B.A with high distinction (Phi Beta Kappa) from Indiana University and his J.D. from George Mason University School of Law.

Robert E. Rains, Professor of Law Emeritus

Instructor

Robert E. Rains, J.D. Harvard 1974, is a Professor of Law Emeritus at the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, PA, where he taught a seminar on Law and Individuals with Disabilities from 1980 to 2012. He founded the law school’s Disability Law Clinic in 1985, and was its director for almost three decades. In the clinic, supervised upper-level law students represented indigent clients, mostly in claims for SSI, at all administrative levels, as well as in federal court. Prof. Rains has lectured widely on Social Security and SSI law and practice to law students, lawyers, and Social Security Administrative Law Judges. His writings on this area of law have appeared in numerous professional and academic journals. His article, “Professional Responsibility and Social Security Representation: The Myth of the State-Bar Bar to Compliance with Federal Rules on Production of Adverse Evidence,” 92 Cornell L. Rev. 363 (2007), was cited by the Social Security Administration (SSA) when it adopted its 2015 “all evidence” regulations. SSA designated Prof. Rains as a “leading scholar in this area.” 80 FR 14833 (March 20, 2015). A longstanding member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR), he was elected to its Board of Directors in 2002. He has authored or co-authored several amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of NOSSCR on various cases on Social Security and SSI law, including Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521 (1990), regarding children’s SSI; Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103 (2000), regarding issue waiver; and United States v. Windsor (2013), the challenge to the provision in the “Defense of Marriage Act” which denied all federal benefits based on marriage to persons in state-recognized same-sex marriages.

John S. Whitelaw

Instructor

John Whitelaw is the Advocacy Director at Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware. Founded in 1946, CLASI is a statewide nonprofit law firm whose mission is to combat injustice through creative and persistent civil legal advocacy on behalf of vulnerable and underserved Delawareans. CLASI is also Delaware's designated Protection and Advocacy agency for individuals with disabilities, one of only two such combined legal aid and P & A programs in the country. Previously John was Co-Director of the Aging and Disabilities unit at the North Philadelphia office of Community Legal Services, Inc of Philadelphia. He was with CLS for almost twenty years. For much of his career John has represented clients in matters involving the Department of Public Welfare and the Social Security Administration. John has represented claimants at all administrative levels and in federal and state court. John has been a presenter at many national and regional trainings. John previously worked for legal aid programs in Wilmington DE (1995—1997), Beckley WV (1990-1995) and Minneapolis MN (1987-90). He also worked for the Federal Public Defender Association in Philadelphia in the Capital Habeas Unit (1997-1998). John received his law degree from Stanford Law School in 1986. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1983 where he majored in History.

Terry Willis

Instructor

Terry Willis is an Oklahoma based Social Security Disability Representative serving the entire state of Oklahoma, with offices in Oklahoma City and Lawton. He has extensive experience in government and most recently managed one of Oklahoma’s largest social security law practices. Prior, Terry served as a Social Security Disability Examiner for the State of Oklahoma Disability Determination Division. He also spent 10 years with the Federal Reserve Bank and briefly served as a police officer.

How does this course help me as an employer?

To paraphrase a popular sentiment, if you think it is expensive to train a good employee, try a bad one.

This course provides you with significant economic benefits as an employer. Our course should reduce the costs and time spent in hiring and training an employee, and minimize the risk of employee turnover.  

How can this course reduce the costs and time spent in hiring and training an employee?

Our course offers an efficient way for employers to fill job openings. Employers are often flooded with resumes from unsolicited applicants or in response to a job posting on a national job board. It can be very time-consuming to find applicants who possess even the minimum qualifications.  Rather than reach out to the world at large, you may be proactive in reaching out to our participants to find more qualified applicants.

Our course also offers a more efficient way to train new professionals. Many educational institutions provide little or no training in Social Security Disability law. Since Social Security Disability law is a very unique field, the initial learning curve is steep. This is problematic because many Social Security practices are small, and training takes time away from fee-generating activities.

In assisting employers in hiring and training, an individual who has completed our course should hit the ground running because he or she will have already gained practice, through simulated cases, in tasks that are commonly performed when representing a claimant. This advantage should lead to more satisfied clients and improve the practice’s profitability.

How does this course reduce the risk of employee turnover?

Our course offers a more efficient way to find professionals who want to have a career in Social Security Disability law and who possess the skills needed to stay on the job. New hires will generally have no knowledge of Social Security Disability law or the tasks involved and, as a result, may soon conclude that Social Security Disability law is not the path for them. In contrast, we provide course participants with information about the field before they enroll in the course, and also expose them to the tasks that they would perform on the job.  

Does this mean that participants who have completed your course will require no further training?

No. Our course covers the topics and skills that will form the foundation needed by a practitioner in Social Security Disability law.

If I hire someone who has taken your course, won’t I have to retrain them?

We think that our course will complement your office’s way of doing things. We provide the basic knowledge and practical skills that a new professional needs to learn before they are ready to move on to more advanced Social Security Disability law concepts. For example, it is difficult for a new employee to learn your office’s procedure for evaluating symptoms when that employee does not even know the five-step sequential evaluation process. We provide the training that readies a new employee to better learn your office’s way of doing things.

Can you guarantee that I will be able to hire someone who has taken your course?

No. Although we believe that individuals who have completed our course will be more desirable employees, we cannot make any guarantees.

Can I hire someone and then send them to your course?

Absolutely.

I’m interested in hiring someone who has taken your course. What do I do next?

You can contact us at craig@ormsonlawtraining.com. If you have a job posting ready, we can circulate it among our course participants. If you do not have a job posting ready, we can work with you to create one for our participants. If a participant is interested in your posting, he or she will contact you.

All sessions taught by Craig Ormson, unless otherwise noted. Sessions and instructors are subject to change. All times are Eastern.

Last updated January 16, 2019

Day 1 - Monday (12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.)

I. INTRODUCTIONS, BACKGROUND, AND COURSE OBJECTIVES
II. HIERARCHY OF SOCIAL SECURITY LEGAL SOURCES
III. ADJUDICATORY PROCESS
IV. OVERVIEW OF THE KIRK CLAIMS FILE
V. OVERVIEW OF FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
VI. REVIEW OF THE DAY

Day 2 - Tuesday (12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.)

I. REVIEW OF PRIOR DAY AND QUESTIONS
II. ONSET DATES & STEP 1 – SUBSTANTIAL GAINFUL ACTIVITY
III. STEP 2 – SEVERE IMPAIRMENTS
V. STEP 3.5 – RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY
VI. REVIEW OF THE DAY

Day 3 - Wednesday (12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.)

I. REVIEW OF PRIOR DAY AND QUESTIONS
II. RFC REFRESHER
III. EVIDENCE – OBJECTIVE MEDICAL EVIDENCE AND MEDICAL OPINIONS
IV. EVIDENCE – SUBJECTIVE COMPLAINTS - Honorable David G. Hatfield (retired)
V. STEP 4 – PAST RELEVANT WORK
VI. REVIEW OF THE DAY

Day 4 - Thursday (12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.)

I. REVIEW OF PRIOR DAY AND QUESTIONS
II. STEP 5 – OTHER WORK
III. EVIDENCE – OTHER NONMEDICAL EVIDENCE
IV. EVIDENCE – VOCATIONAL EVIDENCE
V. APPLYING RFC TO STEPS FOUR AND FIVE
VI. REVIEW OF THE DAY

Day 5 - Friday (12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.)

I. REVIEW OF PRIOR DAY AND QUESTIONS
II. EFFECTIVE REPRESENTATION BEFORE THE DDS, PART I – Terry Willis II
III. EFFECTIVE REPRESENTATION BEFORE THE DDS, PART II – Terry Willis II
IV. EFFECTIVE REPRESENTATION AT THE SOCIAL SECURITY HEARING AND APPEALS COUNCIL - Honorable David G. Hatfield (retired)
V. REVIEW OF THE WEEK

Day 6 - Monday (12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.)

I. REVIEW OF PRIOR WEEK AND QUESTIONS
II. EFFECTIVE REPRESENTATION FROM INTAKE TO HEARING - John S. Whitelaw
III. MOCK HEARING OF KIRK - Honorable David G. Hatfield
IV. NADR PRESENTATION - Eva Sirman, NADR Association Manager
V. REVIEW OF THE DAY

Day 7 - Tuesday (12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.)

I. REVIEW OF PRIOR DAY AND QUESTIONS
II. SKILLTRAN PRESENTATION - Jeff Truthan, President of SkillTran
III. MOCK HEARING OF VOCATIONAL EXPERT – Honorable David G. Hatfield (retired)
IV. NOSSCR PRESENTATION - Barbara Silverstone, NOSSCR Executive Director
V. REVIEW OF THE DAY

Day 8 - Wednesday (12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.)

I. REVIEW OF PRIOR DAY AND QUESTIONS
II. SIMULATED HEARINGS BY COURSE PARTICIPANTS WITH FEEDBACK – Honorable David G. Hatfield (retired)
III. REVIEW OF THE DAY

Day 9 - Thursday (12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.)

I. REVIEW OF PRIOR DAY AND QUESTIONS
II. PREVAIL RESENTATION - Robin Ventura, Director of Sales and Marketing
III. CHILDREN'S CASES
IV. OUTSIDE PRESENTATION
V. FEDERAL COURT PROCESS
VI. REVIEW OF THE DAY

Day 10 - Friday (12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.)

I. REVIEW OF PRIOR DAY AND QUESTIONS
II. COURSE SURVEYS
III. DRUG ADDICTION AND ALCOHOLISM – Honorable David G. Hatfield (retired)
IV. SIMULATED HEARINGS BY COURSE PARTICIPANTS WITH FEEDBACK
----- ROOM 1 – QUESTIONING KIRK / ROOM 2 – QUESTIONING A VOCATIONAL EXPERT
V. ASK THE EXPERTS SESSION - Honorable David G. HAtfield (retired), John S. Whitelaw

Bonus - March 21 (1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.)

ETHICS IN SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY LAW - Professor of Law Emeritus Robert E. Rains

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