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Binder & Binder, a nation-wide firm of advocates for those seeking Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits, is roughly $40 million in debt and is preparing declare bankruptcy under Chapter 11, according to the Wall Street Journal

For those of us who represent clients before the Social Security Administration, this is quite a milestone.

Three years of sharply lower allowance rates have taken their toll. Additionally, backlogs at the hearing offices have increased significantly over the past year, so fewer cases are getting scheduled for hearings. Fewer hearings and lower allowance rates is a nasty combination. Add high overhead and high advertising costs, and you have a recipe for bankruptcy. Here is attorney Charles Hall's take on the Binder situation.

I won't miss Binder. I have heard too many stories from its former clients about the level of representation received. In my opinion, disability claimants are better served by local attorneys who develop a relationship with their clients, have a working relationship with the administrative law judges in their area, and work frequently with the staff at local Social Security offices.

Nevertheless, Binder's apparent collapse is the latest evidence the grim new reality in the world of representing clients before the Social Security Administration. It is a tough time to be representing those claiming Social Security disability benefits. All of us have had to make adjustments in our practice.

For those of you applying for disability benefits, you cannot simply trust the system to do the right thing anymore. Good representation is more important than ever.

12/19/2014 Update: The bankruptcy has been filed. During its Chapter 11 reorganization, Binder projects it will reduce its staff by 60% or so over the next 2 years. 

1/02/2015 Update: More Binder & Binder updates, courtesy of Charles Hall. Apparently Binder has stopped ordering medical records for its clients, which if true, is outrageous. And not surprisingly, a lot of Binder employees will be losing their jobs.