Applying for Social Security Disability benefits has always been a complicated process. Still, like everything else in our lives right now, the COVID-19 pandemic has made applying for benefits even more challenging.
COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, has affected millions of people worldwide. Due to the pandemic, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has made significant changes to its operations and policies due to the coronavirus pandemic. Disabled individuals seeking Social Security Disability benefits find themselves in a challenging position, as the current pandemic has drastically slowed down the SSA’s ability to process applications. However, the process to apply for disability benefits is very long, and an extra delay equals a longer wait time for much-needed payments. If you are planning on applying for benefits, are waiting to be approved for benefits, or were denied benefits, you may be left wondering how the current crisis will impact your case. Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about SSD and this evolving pandemic.
Disability Claims at the Hearing Stage
Since March 17, 2020, Social Security field offices and hearing offices nationwide have been closed for face-to-face-services and will remain closed until further notice. All in-person hearings before an Administrative Law Judge are currently canceled. If you have a hearing scheduled, your hearing may occur by telephone instead of video or in-person. Telephone hearings are not mandatory. However, suppose you choose to decline a phone hearing and wait for a rescheduled in-person hearing. In that case, you may be waiting a while as there is currently no set date for when they will resume.
Appealing Your Social Security Denial During COVID-19
If your Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have been denied, you may request an appeal. Generally, applicants have 60 days after receiving the notice of the SSA’s decision to ask for any appeal. There are four levels of appeal, which include:
- Request for Reconsideration
- Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge
- Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order
- Federal Court review
The denial letter the SSA mails to you tells you the level of appeal that you need to file. Once you select the appropriate appeal, you can request an appeal online through the SSA services portal or call the SSA to file over the phone. However, it is encouraged to use the SSA’s online services due to the longer than average wait time for phone applicants. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SSA will extend good cause for late filing in many situations. When you fill out your appeal request, include a statement explaining the delay in filing your appeal.
Continuing Disability Reviews
The SSA has suspended all Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) at this time. These reviews help identify who might no longer qualify as disabled. The agency will not be starting or processing these cases. SSA has indicated if you currently have a CDR pending, you do not have to respond to the review. You also do not have to request medical evidence from your providers at this time. Processing of CDR cases will resume once the pandemic is over, and the SSA will follow up with you in due course.
Be Cautious of Scammers
Unfortunately, some scammers will take advantage of the current situation and try to trick you out of your money and personal information. Don’t be fooled! You should report any fraudulent activity to the SSA if you receive a phone call, email or letter containing any of the following:
- Threats of arrest or other legal action
- Offers to increase or lower benefits
- Demands for immediate payment via gift cards, prepaid cards, or wire transfers.
- Requesting gift card numbers over the phone or cash to be mailed
- Claims there is a problem with your SSN or account.
By reporting any of the situations above, you can help protect others from a scammer in the future.
A Distinguished Team of North Carolina Social Security Lawyers You Can Count On
At Daggett Shuler, we understand that you may feel frustrated or discouraged by the current pandemic. Filing an SSD or SSI claim for benefits is an essential step in improving your life. Since the application process is very technical and specific, you may benefit from having an attorney assist you with the process. Statistically, individuals who retain an attorney through the application process have a higher chance of getting their claims approved. This is especially true during the COVID-19 era. An attorney can help you avoid having your case denied, which means you won’t have to deal with longer appeal wait-times.
The attorneys at Daggett Shuler have years of experience helping clients in North Carolina successfully obtain Social Security benefits even in the current pandemic. Call us toll-free at 1-800-815-5500 to receive guidance about your claim. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, and you can also click here for a free, confidential case evaluation.
You Can Depend on Daggett Shuler.