Remembering TCPaul, 2016-2019

SSA Attorney Advisors, how long did it take you to get to a satisfactory DWPI

I was wondering how long it took to get to a decent DWPI aft cratercity12/18/18
Aside from the DWPI issue, how do you like the job in genera catwoman33312/18/18
Honestly I think it will depend on the office you are in. In downwardslope12/20/18
@CraterCity. It took me about five months after starting. My legaleye12/19/18
About six months, but that coincided with being taken off me lawst12/19/18
cratercity (Dec 18, 2018 - 9:44 am)

I was wondering how long it took to get to a decent DWPI after you were hired.

Also, it doesn’t seem there’s a whole lot of support in my office. Is there any way to better your writing, or am I over analyzing the position? I’m used to being in a more competitive environment than this, and it is a struggle adjusting to the more laid back atmosphere.

catwoman333 (Dec 18, 2018 - 9:24 pm)

Aside from the DWPI issue, how do you like the job in general?? Just wondering....

Also, late Nov. I saw ads for ANOTHER 550 SSA AAs in Falls Church, Arlington, and Baltimore. That follows massive hiring this past summer. Just curious, did those offices have huge turnover or are they expanding??

downwardslope (Dec 20, 2018 - 8:12 pm)

Honestly I think it will depend on the office you are in. In my office it took my coworkers and me a while. We have long files (many cases over 1000 pages, all horribly organized/labeled), are in the circuit that requires the most analysis, and in an office with one senior attorney. With that combination, it is much harder to be fast than it is in an office where you typically only get cases that are around 400 pages. I think I was there at 7 months or so. The file size really started to balloon out after I started and they implemented the 75-day rule.

FWIW, the fastest person in my office does not use stock language (it is not a good idea in our circuit) and rarely OCRs. If you can do everything in the first time you review a case instead of having to go back through the record again, that is going to help you. Sometimes you will have to OCR if you have a judge who gives you nothing and the file is a 3-4K VA nightmare with documents 4x in the same exhibit, but you will miss stuff if you OCR. You will also miss stuff if you try to just go by the labels since some do not label correctly.

I absolutely do group impairments though. Having separate impairments takes up a lot more time.

legaleye (Dec 19, 2018 - 2:16 am)

@CraterCity. It took me about five months after starting. My office did a lot of training before the national training and our senior attorneys were / continue to be helpful with talking out issues and simplifying things. The biggest time saver for me was a shift to focusing on the big picture and not going crazy in a summary of evidence that spends time analyzing things visit by visit.

lawst (Dec 19, 2018 - 9:12 am)

About six months, but that coincided with being taken off mentor review and some nudging from my GS indicating that I needed to pick up speed. And I did. I had everything I needed to be faster, but I had been really taking my time. As someone else said, look at the big picture.

Here’s a post I wrote in another thread with some tips that have helped me:

lawst (Oct 23, 2018 - 10:24 pm)

I have stock paragraphs that I copy and paste. I even copy and paste the step 5 jobs. I have them in a word document.

Figure out about 4-5 things you can use for the b criteria. Utilize the function report / ADL form for this. Then always use those same things. You’ll know where to look for them them and it will become rote. Occasionally I’ll copy and paste from other cases’ b criteria then change facts and citations as necessary. Claimants seem to fill out their function reports the same way.

I take notes in a notepad document. I can type faster than I can write. And I often just copy and paste from the medical records to the notepad document. I include dates. That helps me get a longitudinal view of the records. Then I can look for trends. I.e. improvement over time. Or lack of deterioration. Or lack of treatment.

I look for the smoking gun facts: the guy with the bad back swinging an axe. The guy who hates being around people but will fly in airplanes. Etc. I note those. These make your analysis a lot easier. Because, in general, doing these things is inconsistent with being unable to work. Depending on your case of course.

Use qualifiers: in general, mostly, largely. You don’t have time to closely scrutinize every physical / mental status exam. But you can usually spot patterns: “physical examinations are generally routine, showing normal strength, good range of motion, normal reflexes, etc.”

Group impairments. Especially mental. I follow this pattern: 1) diagnosis. 2) treatment. 3) imaging studies. 4) physical examinations/ mental status exams 5) smoking gun/gotcha facts and ADLs.

In the discussion of each severe impairment, i list the facts chronologically. This helps with organization. And hence why I write the dates when I’m taking notes.

Learn to weed out the unnecessary stuff. Look at what the CL is telling providers, then look at objective evidence such as exams and imaging, and look at the diagnosis/assessment/impression. Ignore everything else.

This all works for files that are manageable. If you’re getting lots and lots of pages and exhibits this will be harder.

Use ocr. It will save you a ton of time. Open all your documents as you begin working on a case. Search in all documents. Work on other things while the viewer loads the ocr into memory.

You will get faster with time. I was in your shoes earlier this year as well. Good luck.

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