In an effort to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, the Social Security Administration's Offices have had most of its offices closed for an unspecified period of time. Although the SSA has put physical interaction at all its field offices, hearing offices and remote hearing offices, the people at SSA are still working remotely to answer your queries. The SSA has set up a toll free helpline at 800-772-1213 from 08 00 am to 05 30 pm. Since all of the queries are now being made remotely, hence you should expect some long waiting periods to talk to your Social Security Officer. However, you can also check the status of your Social Security Application or appeal by logging in to the SSA's website.
Your visits to the SSA Field Offices during the lockdown
Since some people are more vulnerable than others during the Covid-19 epidemic (for instance, blind, people on wheelchairs, people most affected by the economic impact etc) the SSA would be handling the most needy cases before. Hence, you could expect a delayed response to your query. With that said, once you have registered your query through phone or email, the SSA officer will get back to you through the toll free helpline or you could also get a call from a private mobile number (since some of the SSA officers are working from home).
As mentioned before, with the limited number of staff physically present at some of the field offices, they would be catering to the most disabled people according to their needs. This includes expedited disability determinations, reinstatement of benefits in dire circumstances, emergency payments, and interim financial assistance for SSI applicants.
If you or your loved one is in dire need of a field appointment, you can call to book an appointment at 800-772-1213 or visit your nearest SSA field office (that is also open) by finding it through the Social Security's Office Locator online.
Your SSDI Hearing Appeals during the lockdown
If you or your loved one had an appointment for a hearing appeal, wait, you do not need to straight away go to the SSA office to confirm. The Office of Hearing Operations (OHO) are working just like the SSA officers. Hence, instead of visiting their field office, you can confirm or get an update from a phone call to the OHO. (Remember in this case also, you could expect a phone call from a private number as the OHO officers are also working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic).
If your hearing was already scheduled, do not worry it would not be cancelled. Instead you will receive a phone call from the OHO officers to proceed with a telephone hearing instead. Also, the telephone hearing will most likely be scheduled at the same time originally allotted to your physical hearing before. However, at times it could not be possible – in that case, the OHO officers will allocate a different time and day for your telephone hearing. Remember, to be vigilant of the time of your telephone hearing and set your schedule for the day according to it.
Other than the telephone hearings, the OHO will also be carrying out the following operations:
- Telephone hearings (if the claimants of the hearings agree for it) following through August;
- Writing and signing/issuance of disability hearings;
- Scheduling upcoming hearings;
- Developing cases for hearings;
- Holding of video hearings (Note: this would only be held in specific law and advocacy offices that are part of the video hearings process; also if you, as claimants agree);
What if you don't want a telephone hearing?
If your previously scheduled hearing was transferred to a telephone hearing, yet you do not want to hold it through a telephone hearing, you are free to cancel it or reschedule your hearing by transferring it to a physical hearing. However, note that the physical hearing could be scheduled months from now due to the uncertainty of the current situation of the Coronavirus pandemic.
How to make the most of Social Security Disability's website?
The Social Security's website is made easy to navigate for people who do not have advocates or lawyers to represent them. You can carry out all of the following tasks yourself if you have an SSA login:
- Apply for Disability benefits
- Appeal a denial of disability benefits
- Check the status of your disability application
- Check the status of your disability appeal
If you need help filing for your disability benefits online, you can get counsel of our expert disability advocates for guidance. To get tips on winning SSDI check this.