Social Security Disability Programs During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The media headlines are saturated with stories about the losses and struggles millions are facing in light of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. However, the situation is even more urgent for individuals with disabling medical conditions and associated implications. The good news is that, even though the Social Security Administration (SSA) has closed field offices, hearing offices, and other designated sites, many functions related to Social Security Disability programs continue on. Whether you’re getting ready to file for benefits, working on an appeal, or currently receive benefits, you can move forward.
It’s always to your advantage to work with a Social Security disability lawyer in connection with your claim, and the COVID-19 pandemic provides an additional reason to do so. Meanwhile, you can learn some basics about how SSA is handling things for the foreseeable future.
Phone Services at Field Offices: At present, the Social Security Field Office for Decatur, GA will only provide services via phone related to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There are some exceptions:
- Field offices are staffed with skeleton crews to deal with critical matters that can only be done in-person;
- Employees may make in-person appointments for those in need of expedited services, such as determination of disability, reinstatement of benefits, and other emergency requests.
Disability Hearings and Appeals: Administrative law judges and their staff are mostly working remotely, holding some disability hearings by telephone. Behind the scenes, these employees will continue writing decisions, issuing findings, developing cases that are scheduled for hearing, and setting up appeals.
Online Social Security Services: The SSA website is still up and running for some purposes, including:
- Applying for SSDI and SSI Benefits: You can file your SSDI application online, but can only submit an application for SSI if you meet certain criteria. You cannot use the website for this purpose if you applied for SSI in the past, you’re applying for blindness disability, you are or were married, and other conditions.
- Reconsideration and Appeals Regarding Denials: Some aspects of the Social Security disability appeals process are available via the SSA website, though you’ll need to set up a free account to do so. You can request a reconsideration or an appeals hearing, and check the status of an application or appeal. Note that you still have 60 days from the Notice of Decision to take action, as SSA has not – at this time – granted extensions. Your documents must still be filed and/or mailed according to the existing deadlines.
Status Regarding Other SSDI/SSI Issues: Payments to SSDI and SSI recipients will continue without interruption, whether you receive them via direct deposit or US mail. SSA will not initiate or move forward on any Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs), so you can hold off on responding to any requests and do not need to get medical records from your treating physicians. In addition, SSA will not seek collection on any overpayments. Once the COVID-19 pandemic diminishes, SSA will follow up to handle overpayment of benefits and get back on track with a regular CDR schedule.
Get in Touch with a Social Security Disability Attorney
Though there will continue to be a disruption for some aspects of SSDI and SSI claims, it’s good to know that SSA is doing its best to provide essential support during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Vaughn Law Firm, our team is also endeavoring to deliver quality legal advice and counsel to help with your disability claim. For more information on how we can set up your free consultation through remote methods, please call our Decatur, GA at 877.615.9495 or visit our firm online.