Cutting Through the Red Tape

Joe Perry

The red tape of filing a Social Security Disability claim is a nightmare familiar to thousands of Americans. But thanks to the help of Legal Aid attorney Adam DeFayette, who practices out of LASNNY’s Plattsburgh office, and veteran Joseph Perry’s dogged determination and preparation, the nightmare is over.

A veteran of both Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Joe, a single father raising two boys in the North Country, has been pursuing assistance from both the VA and the Social Security Administration for many years. His long Navy service contributed to his disabling conditions. After many years of denials and frustration, Joe turned to LASNNY for help.

Adam’s role as a “skilled advocate” (a designation he wears with humility) proved to be a critical element in winning Joe’s case: “Joe had a lengthy work history, which means that he paid into social security via payroll withholdings, just as all working people do — it’s supposed to be a form of insurance that you can draw off of in the event of chronic illness and disability. Unfortunately, Joe’s initial application was denied, an exceptionally common outcome,” explained Adam.

Joe’s initial application was denied, an exceptionally common outcome

“The application process can be confusing, and if it’s not something you do every day (like I do); most people have no idea how to make their claim truly effective,” Adam continued. “An appeal can actually be a much more humane and comprehensive examination of the person’s limitations than the initial application; as a result something like 50% of claims are won on appeal. These are the same people, with the same disabilities, that were initially denied. This about-face is primarily the result of enlisting an experienced practitioner that knows what Social Security is actually looking for.”

Joe’s case was financed through a special LASNNY grant which funds low-income social security applicants that have been denied benefits. The partnership between Adam and Joe—a cross between shoe-leather detective work and strong preparation—won the day. “Adam was very optimistic because my case was pretty much a done deal in his mind, it was strong and was backed with medical documentation, which in turn made his job that much easier,” said Joe.

“On the day of my hearing, Adam had told me my case was mine to tell, so he told me to get that across to the Judge. After the hearing Adam had said that I articulated my case so well that he was very optimistic about the outcome; he paid me a great compliment that I made this case an easy win for him, because of knowing it in and out.”

For Adam’s part, the search for medical evidence required persistence and tenacity. “That’s what I do, I track down every piece of medical evidence, and I reach out (often repeatedly) to the doctors that treated Joe—I need their input, and Social Security needs their input—and very often I educate the local medical community as to their role in these cases.

I often tell my clients that the social security judges care very little for what either of us has to say, but that they care a great deal about what their doctors have to say. I impress this on my clients from day one.” Joe Perry couldn’t have been happier with the outcome of his case, and he’s inspired to share his experience with others. “I received a phone call from Adam with the greatest of news: yes, the Judge had approved my disability claim! I was overjoyed and so were my children. I would most definitely recommend LASNNY to any person I know, especially any veterans. I am hoping that by telling my story, LASNNY can get more funds to help other veterans in these types of cases.”

I am hoping that by telling my story, LASNNY can get more funds to help other veterans in these types of cases.

Adam DeFayette has been working with LASNNY in the North Country for the last two years. “I think it’s a real privilege to be able to do this kind of work,” he added. “Legal Services is absolutely essential. Without a profit-motive, we can take important cases that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. The work we’re doing is very high stakes for our clients—if we didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be anywhere to turn for help on these issues, and the results would be ­devastating.”



For more information about the Disability Advocacy Program,
contact Peter Racette, LASNNY Deputy Director, at
[email protected] or (518) 563-4022 ext. 118