It has been a little while since the Best Practices for Claimant’s Representatives was published on the SSA’s website. It is one of those lists that is full of useful reminders, and is therefore worth revisiting every 6 months or so. So please take another look.
One of the best practices is:
ESTABLISH A GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH HEARING OFFICE STAFF AND MANAGEMENT.
You should participate in periodic group meetings with the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge and Hearing Office Director in the offices in which you practice. Open dialogue allows both representatives and hearing offices to exchange suggestions as to how to improve service in the local area.
These group meetings can be very helpful, and we are about due for a meeting for the Portland, Maine ODAR and the Manchester, NH ODAR. Since the fiscal year just ended, it seems like a good time.
However, I want to highlight the importance of having a good working relationship with the hearing office staff. We interact with these folks all the time, and everything works just so much better when you have a good relationship with them.
I recently had to postpone a hearing on very short notice due to a personal matter. The client was fine with it, but I was concerned about the short notice at the hearing office. But the judge’s assistant and the judge could not have been more gracious, and I am very grateful to them. The situation may have been helped by the fact that I have a good relationship with these professionals.