HOW WILL THE CORONAVIRUS IMPACT MY SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY CASE? [Updated: April 13, 2020]
If you have applied for Social Security Income or Social Security Disability Income [SSI or SSDI] benefits from the Social Security Administration and are waiting for a decision or a hearing for those benefits, the current times are even more uncertain than they are for the average American. Social distancing is causing more and more anxiety. Information transfer is slowing down, and you just want to know what is going on. . . you need a guide!
OFFICES ARE CLOSED, BUT THERE IS (SOME) HELP AVAILABLE
Currently, SSA offices are closed. However, you can access their helpline or your local office. https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/. https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp. Please note that phone line contact can result in wait times of over 90 minutes per the SSA website. (Recent experiences – on 9 April, 10 April and 13 April – demonstrate that at least one hearing office is not picking up the phone during working hours at all and it often will NOT go to voicemail even with using extensions. In these situations, representatives have access to the electronic messaging system [in Electronic Records Express, ERE] that appears to be the only way to access OHO at this time if you do not have direct extensions. It remains to be seen whether OHO will be responsive to their own messaging system in ERE. Bottom line: expect significant delay in processing.)
There will be no in-person hearings. If you are at the hearing office level, SSA will offer you an over-the-phone hearing. Talk to your representative to discuss whether phone hearings are a wise choice. There are many factors to consider such as the strength of your case, state of evidence development, assignment of judge, nature of impairments, etc.
MAIL IS DELAYED, BUT EXTENSIONS OF TIME ARE AVAILABLE
SSA mail is delayed. Therefore, any response request by SSA and needed by the dates in the SSA documents may have already passed. This may cause you even more anxiety. However, SSA indicates it will grant extensions based upon the current conditions with “maximum flexibility.” https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/. This is good news!
HOW TO MAKE THINGS EASIER
There are several things you can do to make these times easier. First, make sure you have a “my SSA” account. There, you can monitor the broad status of your claim. You can go here to create one: https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/. Second, realize that while SSA personnel are working, they are doing so from home. This will result in delay, but hopefully not stagnation.
The next thing to do is to find a guide who can answer the questions you may have without having to wait for hours on the SSA “helpline,” which is going to be deluged.
FIND YOUR BEST GUIDE
Your best guide will be an attorney who is skilled in the area of Social Security Disability. Ideally, this will be someone who has worked at SSA and understands their processes. In the western Washington, remember, Michael with PounceLaw is a former SSA ALJ [disability judge]. https://pouncelaw.com/.
PounceLaw, we know disability inside out.