Social Disability Lawyer Blog

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7 Likely Changes in Social Security due to ‘The CoronaVirus Pandemic’

7 Likely Changes in Social Security due to ‘The CoronaVirus Pandemic’

If you understand how the Covid-19 may impact the Social Security, you might better be able to win your Social Security Disability Appeals by adapting to the new practices and regulations by the Social Security Administration, SSA.

Although the SSA is still holding some in-office operations in its local offices, many of the staff is now working remotely and only a limited number of the local offices are open for a walk-in query for the public. This means that more on-call services and lesser in-person services are now accessible to the American citizens.

Since many of the claimants are also unable to visit their doctors in-person, the SSA has made video teleconferencing available for not only appeals but also for doctor's and employer's testimonies to your disability. Also, here is the good news – the SSA is said to be approving even more cases than it did before the pandemic. The reason being, the SSA realizes how the pandemic has already affected the job market for the healthy, young individuals who can perform substantial gainful activity to earn their livelihoods. Yet, the SSA knows that it is now even more difficult for the elderly or the seemingly unfit and chronically disabled claimants to find work under SGA during this pandemic.

So, if you or a loved one has been having difficulty finding work under substantial gainful activity due to health limitations, chronic impairments and/or disabilities, this is the right time to apply for your social security disability. If you are struggling with longstanding health problems that truly interfere with your daily functioning or work at home, or if your disability/impairments is substantially effecting your employment prospects then you have a higher chance of winning Social Security Disability.

Now, since the Social Security Administration has made a series of changes in their policies for the SSDI claims – for instance, they're no longer doing live hearings (only for exceptional cases : Read more on this here). Let us discuss another most important seven things that have been down the pipe by the SSA recently:

  • I. Fewer People Answering Your Phone Calls

This means that there are now lesser people at the local office to be able to answer live calls. Even if your call gets connected, for which it may take a while due to heavy call traffic, you might need to be more patient if you want to speak with a social security agent live. Also, many of the calls would be auto transferred to the social security examiner's personal mobile numbers since most of them are working remotely from home to provide you the same quality of services during the pandemic. Hence, if you are in a hurry, a much better option is to use the SSA's online service platform. Also, if you are filing for disability, you can completely do it on your own by creating an account on the SSA's main website using the Signup.

  • II. Consultative Evaluations

One of the things that a judge or your social security examiner is responsible for is to make sure that the records are developed and everything is arranged prior to the deadlines. So they are responsible for scheduling meetings with doctors/physicians for instance with a physician if you have general health problems like back problems, arthritis etc or mental doctors if you have mental health problems for instance dementia, Alzheimer's etc. Claimants could also need specialists in some case, for instance if they have a heart problem, kidney disability etc.

But the main problem is that most of the OPDs are now closed or partially unavailable for the general public and is only catering to extreme emergencies due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, many claimants are concerned about being exposed to the different types of health issues with other people present in the hospital – this is mainly due to the fact that the elderly are already more vulnerable to catching health issues being in contact with contagious viruses.

This is the reason that the Social Security has put on a hold to the consultative evaluations until the situation is calmed. What this means in terms of social security is that if you have applied for benefits or if you have made reconsideration appeals for your disability hearings you would have to wait longer to get your SSA advised consultative evaluation. Although you can waive the consultative evaluation and request for the disability appeal to proceed without the doctor's statement, we suggest it is not the best step to take to ignore the chance of getting a professional doctor's statement on record for your disability case.

  • III. The Hearing Appeals will be done by Funnel Process

This means that all the disability claimants who have filed for reconsideration appeals will be called for a video teleconference disability hearing (in-person hearings for exceptional cases) through a first-come-first-serve basis. The later you have filed for a reconsideration appeal the later your disability hearing would be scheduled i.e., all the hearings will be funneled.

Another down side to most funnel hearings would be that most of them would be held through the video teleconferencing. This means that the claimants may not be able to interact with the judge the same way that they could do in an in-person hearing. Also, they could not be able to properly communicate through their body language how their disability has implications for their day-to-day daily activities such as a person on a wheelchair may not show as being unable to shower on his own in a video teleconference to the judge.

  • IV. Downsides to Video Teleconferencing

Although you can object to a video teleconference appeal and choose to reschedule for an in-person hearing, it may take a lot of time to get your hearing due to the unavailability of the in-person ALJs in your locality.

Our tip is if you have a disability attorney to guide you through a disability case, you can actually ask them to prepare you for your best presentation for a video teleconferencing. Remember, presenting the facts in the correct manner may actually tilt the ALJ's decision for the disability hearing in your favor!

  • V. More Disability Cases Approved

Remember, the disability examiners evaluating your case are also humane people. They know that the whole pandemic has not only worsened people's healthcare facilities but also impacted the job prospects for the more vulnerable communities especially the disabled and the elderly.

The disability examiner or judge is also aware of how a disabled person may have even lesser prospects of finding a suitable job that fits their condition/impairments. This is why, we are seeing more disability cases being approved during the pandemic. Hence, if you present your case correctly and are able to convince the examiner (through genuine medical records and testimonies along with meeting other eligibility criteria) then you have a higher chance of getting your disability claims approved now than ever.

  • VI. Surge in Disability Claims Applications

Due to the surprisingly high levels of rising unemployment the SSA has reported that it has seen a surge in the level of disability claims applications during the pandemic. In terms of impacts for the claimants, this may mean much longer delays in their social security evaluations, disability hearing appeals, consultative evaluations etc.

We suggest if you meet any of the above criteria and have been thinking of applying for the social security, then you should move fast and do so right away. This is because the longer you delay applying now, the longer you will have to wait for the consultative evaluation.

  • VII. Increased Importance of Non-Medical Evidence

Since many of the elderly and disabled have become more vulnerable to unemployment and falling short of getting their ends met, the need for the non-medical evidence is now more than ever. This is because in addition to the social security disability eligibility, the examiners now need to be more aware of the non-medical evidence to rule out scams. This means the SSA is putting more importance on your employer's or coworker's statements to evaluate your case.

Also, statements from your supervisors, friends, relatives or even healthcare workers about your disability and reduced functioning due to it, hold utmost importance. This is because due to the limited availability of the medical evidence during the pandemic, this is the only second best evidence to evaluate your case properly – since this is the evidence provided by people who have seen or observed the hindering aspects of your disability in the real world.

So, if you or a loved one needs help in finding assistance at any point of the Social Security Application, we are here to help.

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Sunday, 13 June 2021