Harvard Law School
Publication Status: Unpublished research in progress
D. James Greiner, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Cassandra Wolos Pattanayak, College Fellow in Statistics, Harvard University; and Julie McCormack, Clinical Instructor, WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School
The Effect of Offers of Law Student Representation in Social Security Disability Proceedings: A Randomized Study
The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) administers two programs to assist persons who become disabled. Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) pays benefits to disabled persons who posses limited income and assets. Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) provides benefits to former workers who become unable to work due to a disability. Eligibility for both programs turns on a finding that the applicant is “disabled” within the meaning of applicable statutes and regulations. Applicants seeking SSI or SSDI benefits file applications; if those applications are denied, they may request reconsideration, then a trial de novo before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Subsequent review by an internal SSA board and a federal court is circumscribed. Applicants may have attorneys represent them at all stages of the proceedings.
In this study, study subjects are SSI and SSDI applicants who contact Harvard Law School’s WilmerHale Legal Services Center (“LSC”), a clinic that provides representation to income- and asset-eligible persons using law students supervised by clinic staff. LSC’s resources are such that it can offer representation to about half of the eligible applicants who contact it. If applicant’s matters are at either the reconsideration or ALJ hearing stages of SSA’s disability determination process, they are randomized to one of two groups. Group A receives an offer of representation from LSC’s student and staff attorneys. Group B receives a pro se assistance packet, a list of names and telephone numbers of other attorneys who might take their cases, and offers to transfer information gained during intake to any new representative (so that new representatives need not redo full intake interviews). The research team will compare the fraction of Group A versus Group B applicants who are represented; the fraction in each Group found disabled; the time periods needed for disability determinations in each Group; the amounts of any retrospective benefits awards in each Group; and the amounts of monthly benefits in each Group. The randomized design will allows a rigorous and scientifically valid evaluation of the role of offers of LSC representation in the SSA disability determination process, and will provide information on the role of legal representation in that process.
Study completion is anticipated in the winter of 2016.
PUBLICATION DETAILSFormat: Research
Publication Type: White Paper
Geographic coverage, US: Massachusetts
Topics: Randomized Research
Case type: SSDI/SSI
How Provided: Law School Clinics
Permalink URL of this page: http://legalaidresearch.org/?p=1709
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