The coronavirus pandemic has been a very confusing and chaotic time for many people. Of the many offices that shut down in 2020 was that of Social Security, which closed its field offices, hearing offices, and remote hearing sites to the public.
So how do people with Social Security Disability claims seek help during COVID? This blog post will help provide some clarity on what to do when it comes to seeking disability benefits during this unprecedented time.
Social Security Field Offices
As things start to open up as people start to get vaccinated, there might be more field offices opening back up and employees starting to trickle in, but for the time being, field offices are only offering phone services to most people applying for disability benefits. Some in-person appointments are starting to happen, and if you think you might qualify for this type of appointment, you can call your local field office via this helpful locator link. You can also call the Social Security national line at (800) 772-1213.
How Can You Check Your Status of Appeal Hearings?
Just as most everyone has been working remotely during COVID, so have judges and attorneys. Some of the remote hearing offerings include telephone and video options and other accommodations to support social distancing. In addition to these remote options, judges, attorneys, and staff members may also perform the following duties from home: writing and issuing disability decisions, developing cases, and scheduling case hearings.
It’s important to know that if you have a scheduled hearing, you won’t want to necessarily go to the hearing office, but instead wait to receive a phone call from the Office of Home Operations (OHO). A staff member from OHO will seek a telephone hearing for you (possibly from their home phone, since they’ll be working from home possibly) and will try to schedule it at the same time as your previously scheduled hearing, but you might not have the same time slot and the schedule may have to shift. Either way, they will work with you to reschedule if they are unable to fill your original time slot.
If you would rather not do a telephone hearing and would like to do an in-person one, they can also work with you to accommodate that, but you should know that when you do that, your in-person hearing might not happen for many months in the future.
Maybe your hearing was canceled and you were never given a phone option? If this is the case, OHO should work with you to fit in a phone hearing ASAP. If a staff member from OHO doesn’t reach out to you, you can reach out to them here.
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits In the COVID Era
The good news is that if you are seeking SSD benefits right now, applying for them isn’t much different than it was pre-pandemic, as you can utilize the SSA website. You can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you’re someone who has paid employment or self-employment taxes. But if you are low-income or have few financial assets, then you can apply for Supplemental Security Income at the same time as when you apply for SSDI, if you meet the following qualifications:
- You’re not married and have never been married
- You’ve never applied for SSI before
- You are not applying because of blindness or low vision
- You are not applying for a child when it comes to SSI
Sign Up for My Social Security Account
When it comes to staying up-to-date on your application or appeals, you’ll want to sign up for a my Social Security Account. This will be where you’ll want to check the status of your appeal.
How to Deal with an Appeal or Denial
If you’ve applied for SSDI or SSI during the pandemic and have already been denied, you’ll want to file an appeal. You can ask for an appeal online. If you’ve already asked for an appeal and have been denied, then you can also request a hearing appeal online. Remember that you have 60 days following a rejection to file an appeal.
Hiring a Disability Benefits Attorney
Finally, whether it’s the COVID era or pre-COVID era, it’s important to know that hiring a disability attorney is ultimately the best way to go about receiving disability benefits, as these professionals will know what to do to win an appeal. After all, as the lawyers at Lowery Law Group can explain, it’s what they do every day, and they don’t receive payment unless you receive payment, so it’s a win-win situation.