STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION
Homeless Action Center (HAC) is a community-based legal services program founded in 1990 to provide legal services to homeless people in Alameda County. Over time, HAC’s specialty became public benefits advocacy, with a focus on Social Security disability benefits. The process of qualifying for disability benefits can be lengthy and difficult. Employing an empathetic, culturally humble client-centered focus and harm reduction principles, Staff Attorneys work closely with other legal services programs and social services programs to assist clients in meeting their emergency and longer-term needs during this process. HAC represents over 2,000 clients at a time. Please refer to www.homelessactioncenter.org.
The Staff Attorneys will primarily represent clients in applications and appeals for SSI/Social Security Disability benefits, and/or CAPI benefits.
Duties include but are not limited to the following:
DIRECT CLIENT SERVICES
- Represent forty clients in all stages of the application process for Social Security disability benefits/CAPI, including initial, reconsideration, administrative hearings, the SSA appeals council, and federal district court:
- SSI/SSDI/CAPI representation generally includes the following minimum duties: contact potential clients; interview clients, assess status eligibility and determine status of any existing or prior claims, complete internal HAC and external SSA and other agency forms; initiate filings/appeals in a timely manner to protect eligibility; pursue, read, and summarize medical records and other evidence; correspond with clients’ physicians and other treatment providers; arrange medical assessments and transportation to medical appointments; submit information electronically; collaborate with SSA and its proxies via phone, email, fax and mail; develop legal arguments and write persuasive letters; and maintain regular contact with clients.
- Should the case proceed to the hearing level, the attorney will represent the client at an Administrative Hearing, which typically includes drafting and submitting a pre-hearing brief, preparing client testimony and an opening statement, answering questions from the judge, conducting a direct exam of the client, and cross examining medical and vocational experts.
- Negative or partially favorable hearing decisions will be assessed for appealability, and attorneys may file for Appeals Council review, and possibly District Court review, and/or file new claims as the situation dictates.
- Occasionally assist clients with issues related to receipt of disability benefits, such as overpayments, payee issues, and employment issues.
- Maintain case files and electronic records following agency guidelines.
- Calendar all deadlines and other case-related dates in agency case management software (Prevail). Use Prevail reports and other features to manage your caseload.
- Help clients apply for and retain other public benefits, e.g MediCal, General Assistance and CalFresh.
- Provide legal advice, brief services and referrals to one’s SSI clients as needed to help them with issues beyond SSISSDI and public benefits.
- Be or become competent in Social Security law. Stay up-to-date on the subject matter.
- Be proficient in Microsoft Office Suite.
- Adapt to changes and challenges in law, office procedures, resources for clients, and technology.
- Practice empathy, cultural humility, harm reduction and trauma-informed lawyering on a day-to-day basis, and learn and practice de-escalation.
- Develop a familiarity with eligibility criteria for HAC’s services and the scope of HAC’s services.
- Carry a caseload of 40 SSI/SSDI cases at all levels of the administrative process.
- Maintain contact with clients, which may include travel and visits to homeless encampments and other places people stay.
- Perform periodic “on duty” shifts, which includes answering the office phone and providing and documenting brief service assistance to walk-in clients.
- Attend monthly staff meetings and periodic all-staff trainings.
- Attend regular case reviews with managing attorneys.
- Assist in office cleaning.
- Track time and complete monthly timesheets.
- Maintain your schedule in Outlook, learn and follow procedures for making your in/out of office presence known.
- Maintain shared information resources such as Sharepoint, outlook contacts, resource binders, and other sources of shared efficiency.
- Must be an active member, in good standing, in the State Bar of California. Direct Legal Services preferred, especially experience with SSI/SSDI benefits.
- Excellent written and oral communication, particularly advocacy.
- Sensitivity to people with disabilities of diverse backgrounds. Our clients are vulnerable, resilient people who deserve your absolute best work.
- Must be compassionate, well-organized, hard-working, reliable, dedicated, flexible, enthusiastic, detail-oriented, justice-oriented, and have the ability to work cooperatively with others in a collegial, yet challenging, environment.
- Must be comfortable applying harm reduction principles and de-escalating clients.
- Commitment to cultural humility, client-centered services, and trauma-informed principles.
The work environment characteristics described here are representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.
- Contact with clients who may have behavioral and psychiatric problems including shouting, use of profanity and inappropriate behavioral choices.
- Supervision: assigned duties according to specified procedures and receives detailed instructions. Work is reviewed frequently. The employee performs a variety of routine work within established policies and procedures, and receives instructions on assignments, new policies, or projects.
- Our offices have open spaces, and thus can be loud and chaotic. While we are a working law office, the layout, as well as the nature of our work, can mean that it is louder than a “typical” office space.
- We have animals – cats and dogs – in our offices.
- This position requires interacting with people living in homeless encampments. Encampments may be especially chaotic, and may have debris, drug paraphernalia, rodents, and other possible hazards.
- May include contact with clients with mental health issues who demonstrate behaviors such as use of profanity, shouting, running away, self-harm and violence.
- Occasional need to interact with clients that may be expressing anger both appropriately and inappropriately.
- The worker is occasionally exposed to perfume or scents in personal care products used by employees, clients, and visitors.
- The worker is occasionally exposed to cleaning products.
- The work environment includes traveling using various modes of transportation.
- The work environment may include driving an agency vehicle.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, & INCLUSION
HAC is committed to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the office, and to working toward an anti-racist organization and society. HAC recently hired a Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Impact and is fortunate to have dedicated staff who have put in a tremendous amount of work towards positively impacting change around diversity, equity, and inclusion. HAC periodically engages with consultants to assess its culture, facilitate processes and working groups, and make recommendations for improvement. Our staff-led HAC-POC Committee was launched in 2018 to promote racial equity by advocating for a racially diverse and inclusive environment at HAC while equipping managers to lead diverse and inclusive teams. HAC’s Executive Director has declared that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be one of the organization’s top priorities, and the Management Team, in partnership with staff, are continuing to strive to increase equity and inclusion within HAC.
SALARY & BENEFITS
- Starting salary commensurate with experience, based on scale; salary scale for licensed attorneys is $64,618 – $85,000 depending on experience. Salary scale is examined at least annually.
- Employer paid insurance: health, vision, and dental, as well as life insurance, long-term disability insurance and employee assistance program. Coverage for employee only; employee may purchase coverage for spouse and/or dependents through HAC.
- Subsidy for Commuter Check program.
- 403(b) account available without employer contribution.
- Generous vacation, holiday and sick time.
- Work from home available during COVID-19.
Please submit a resume, cover letter, and list of three references IN ONE PDF DOCUMENT to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 30, 2021. As part of your cover letter, please address the following question:
In order to best serve our clients and our community, HAC is committed to creating an equitable and inclusive workplace in which differences are acknowledged and valued. How has your personal background or experience, professional or otherwise, prepared you to contribute to social justice, racial equity, and diversity among our staff?
HAC is committed to equity in hiring. We encourage people of color, women, people with disabilities, older people, LGBTQIA people, and members of other historically oppressed groups to apply. It is HAC’s policy to prohibit discrimination and harassment of any type and to afford equal employment opportunities to employees and applicants without regard to race, color, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, pregnancy, medical condition or genetic information, veteran status, national origin, disability, marital, or other protected status. HAC will conform to the spirit, as well as the letter, of all applicable laws and regulations.
DISCLAIMER: The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed by people assigned to this classification. They are not to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, and skills required of personnel so classified. Nothing in this job description restricts management’s right to assign or reassign duties and responsibilities to this job at any time. All personnel may be required to perform duties outside of their normal responsibilities from time to time, as needed.