Shearman & Sterling LLP and Credit Suisse Help Preserve Security Benefits for Disabled Low-Income New Yorkers

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

  • Legal Aid Society

Many of our most fragile clients, physically and/or psychologically disabled individuals, are threatened with the loss of their Social Security Disability benefits due to alleged overpayments. In these instances, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) determines that for a particular period the disabled individual has received benefits in excess of the allocated amount. SSA then seeks to recoup the overpaid amount by terminating or reducing the recipients’ benefits. For many of our clients, a Social Security stipend is their sole source of income and even a 10% decrease in benefits has a devastating impact on their lives.

The Legal Aid Society receives many calls for assistance from recipients whom SSA alleges incurred an overpayment. Due to limited resources, however, the Society only can represent a small percentage of these vulnerable New Yorkers living at a subsistence level. In 2009, Shearman & Sterling and Credit Suisse initiated a pro bono partnership to expand the provision of legal services to this population, ensuring a meaningful opportunity to contest the alleged overpayment.

Under the supervision of Anne Callegy and Jocelyne Martinez, the Supervising Attorneys for the Society’s Disability Advocacy Project, joint Shearman and Credit Suisse legal teams, composed of attorneys and non-lawyers, conduct quarterly clinics to assist disabled claimants threatened with a reduction of benefits. During the course of the clinics, the clients discuss the circumstances of the overpayment, provide Social Security Administration notices, and supply supporting documentation for the waiver or appeal of the overpayment. The Shearman/Credit Suisse team has helped disabled individuals complete appeals forms that present the strongest argument in support of the recipient’s application for reconsideration and/or a waiver. When necessary, the Shearman/Credit Suisse team has followed-up with the client to obtain additional documentation and if necessary, has represented the disabled claimant at an administrative hearing. After three clinics were held, one in October of 2009, one in February of 2010, and one in June of 2010, 30 adults and children have been helped to maintain these essential benefits.

This exceptional pro bono three-way partnership is coordinated by Saralyn Cohen, Shearman’s Pro Bono Counsel and Director of Pro Bono, Andrew Hutcher, Credit Suisse Majority Director, Counsel to Chief Operations Office to America's General Counsel, and Andrew Learner, Credit Suisse Director & Counsel.