Key Points of This Article:
- Roughly 10.5 million people receive disability benefits from Social Security, and an additional 8 million receive disability benefits from Supplemental Security Income.
- As of April 10, 2020, several workflow disruptions were announced related to the coronavirus pandemic that may impact how local SSA offices are operating and changes in scheduled hearing appointments.
- Especially now, due to COVID-19 disruptions, applying for benefits or appealing Social Security decisions of any kind can be a complicated, drawn-out, and a confusing process to understand.
- If you need to file for Social Security disability, or if you’re a current client with questions about your hearing or an appeal, or you received a questionable call about your financial benefits, Rhoads & Rhoads attorneys and staff are still working hard to help you.
Social Security Disability Updates Due to COVID-19 Disruptions
Although our legal offices are closed to the public for face-to-face service during the coronavirus pandemic, the team at Rhoads & Rhoads is hard at work and successfully moved our business to virtual online meetings and phone calls to support our clients with disability claims. And like us, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is offering secure services for Social Security Disability (SSD) filings and hearings by telephone until further notice. And in some cases, by special request, representatives are taking individual appointments for people in extreme circumstances to make expedited disability determinations, reinstate benefits, provide emergency payments, and interim financial assistance for Social Security Income (SSI) applicants.
During this time of uncertainty, we encourage you to reach out to us for help and also review these most recent updates from the SSA about how to file a claim, how and when to submit documentation supporting your benefits, how to check the status of your application or your appeal, and how the agency is conducting hearings now and through the summer months.
- Understanding what the SSA is NOT doing right now.
As of April 10, 2020, SSA announced several workflow disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. SSA is still accepting SSD claims for benefits but has listed other changes to regular tasks on its website, including:
- You can still apply for SSD benefits online.
- SSA will not conduct any non-disability hearings.
- Social Security will not start or complete any continuing disability reviews at this time.
- If you have a medical continuing disability review pending, please do not request medical information from your doctors at this time. SSA will follow up with you for any medical evidence once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. In the meantime, it is a good idea to safely gather as much information as you can to support the review.
- If you are waiting for a hearing on your continuing disability review decision and you continue to receive benefit payments, SSA will schedule your hearing once offices reopen.
- If you are waiting for a hearing on your continuing disability review decision but you are not currently receiving benefits, SSA will proceed with your hearing.
- Where possible, SSA has suspended its processing and collection of overpayments.
- SSA will not process any Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Although there may be some flexibility depending on each claim, whether you have applied or plan to apply for SSD or SSI, you will still need to provide information about your medical condition, work, and education history to help the agency decide if you are disabled under their rules.
- You can still prepare your case and file a claim for benefits.
Judges and staff are still writing and issuing disability decisions and developing cases for hearing, so yes, you can still apply online to receive benefits. One of the most critical steps in applying to receive SS benefits is to gather the information needed to show you have been diagnosed with a disabling condition that affects your ability to work. We understand obtaining this information can feel difficult for most, so before you attempt to claim benefits or allow yourself to feel defeated in filing for social security disability benefits in Kentucky, we advise you to contact our office so that you don’t jeopardize your potential claim or current status. The last thing we want is for anyone to feel without the financial support they need, and we have the experience and contacts to best help you navigate through SSAs temporary changes for the strongest chance of approval.
- Deadline accommodations to provide claim documentation.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SSA has extended deadlines wherever possible and applied a good cause policy. The good cause policy extends the time limits for submitting appeals and taking other actions during this pandemic. Until SSA offices physically reopen, claimants should still work to collect what has been requested and can mail documents to keep their case moving in the right direction. Working with a Social Security attorney can help ensure you are sending the correct paperwork – from the start.
- Hearings are being held by telephone but not mandatory.
SSA Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) are conducting hearings by telephone until standard operations resume – presumably in August. If you already have a scheduled hearing appointment, you will be contacted by a representative in advance to confirm your availability for a telephone hearing and contact information. If your hearing has been rescheduled, a notice will be sent at least 20 days before, giving you the new date, time, and options to communicate.
It’s also important to know that accepting a telephone hearing date is not mandatory, and the person scheduling your hearing may have a discussion with you about your preferred communication options and the possibility of a postponement. If you have not done so yet, this is a good time to speak with a SSD attorney to help make that decision with you and also coordinate and gather the information needed to support your hearing.
Please remember that SSA employees would never threaten you or ask for any form of immediate payment. If someone does contact you and you suspect fraudulent misrepresentation or a scam, don’t give out any information, including bank account numbers.
Our Attorneys Are Still Working to Support Your SSD Claim for Benefits
At the law firm of Rhoads & Rhoads, we recognize that we are living in challenging times. While we all have concerns about our families, health, employment, and more – please be assured that our team is still accommodating our clients through phone calls and virtual meetings. Our job is to protect the clients we serve, including the many who have underlying medical conditions and financial hardships related to their disability.
Western Kentucky Social Security Disability Attorneys
If you need to file a claim for Social Security disability, or if you’re a current client with questions about your request for benefits or an upcoming hearing, please feel free to give us a call. Our attorneys are happy to safely meet with you over the phone to see how we can help. Call us at 888-709-9329 to schedule your FREE consultation today. There is never a fee unless we win your case.