The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 has dramatically impacted daily life and business around the globe. Businesses are shuttering as Americans are being encouraged to work remotely and practice social distancing. Social Security claimants should take special note of how the Social Security Administration (SSA) has responded to COVID-19.
As of March 17, 2020, the SSA closed all branch offices, including hearing offices, remote hearing offices, and field offices. However, phone services and online services are still available. For claimants who have either an appointment or hearing scheduled with Social Security, the SSA is offering the option to move forward with those services via the telephone. It’s very important to realize that by conducting appointments and hearings remotely, claimants are sacrificing their right to an in-person hearing. No claimant is required to agree to a remote hearing, and lawyers may encourage a claimant to exercise his/her right to an in-person hearing. Unfortunately, as the pandemic unfolds across the country, there is no timeline for rescheduling in-person hearings.
The reason why most lawyers are likely to encourage claimants to exercise their right to an in-person hearing is simply because there is a benefit to presenting a case face-to-face with the administrative law judge. It’s easier for all parties to stay focused and engaged when everyone is in the same room, and personal connection can be lost when that personal interaction is removed.
In this uncertain situation, it’s easy for claimants to become confused. With the increased popularity of scam calls related to social security, it’s difficult to know what to believe, and receiving a call about an SSA telephone hearing can seem suspicious. Furthermore, it may not be immediately clear to claimants that it’s possible to deny the phone hearing. An advocate or representative can be extremely helpful for claimants, particularly in situations like this, because it is the job of disability lawyers to stay informed of these kinds of changes and the rights to which their client is entitled. Having a professional in your corner can help assuage fears and lessen the pressure of the situation.
If you’re at the beginning stages of filing a claim, the good news is that almost everything you’ll need to do can be accomplished remotely, as the early process of filing for Social Security is primarily form-driven. Claimants who are representing themselves can accomplish a great deal by mail. Right now, working with a representative like Molly Burke means tele-conferencing or video conferencing, and filling out forms together with your representative who will then fax the forms remotely. An application can absolutely still go forward. For assistance and support during this time, contact Molly Burke Law Office to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.