Covid-19 Update – January 2021
The Social Security Administration (SSA) continues to experience tremendous impact from the novel Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. The processing time and denial rates for social security disability insurance (SSDI) and supplemental security income (SSI) initial and reconsideration applications continue to increase. In-person service is by appointment only and difficult to obtain.
Like all companies, Covid-19 has forced the SSA to transition to remote working quickly. The increased processing times are likely due to SSA’s difficulties managing remote, electronic work processes and operations. SSA is notoriously antiquated, relying on fax machines and paper files. Thankfully, Covid-19 has forced changes to the SSA, including new electronic faxing software, which should significantly increase process tracking and efficiency.
The processing time of SSDI and SSI initial and reconsideration applications continues to increase. The agency is working at a limited capacity from remote (home) locations and struggles to schedule appointments with the SSA doctors, a necessary step in most cases. Likewise, medical records departments are working at reduced capacity, and therefore the transmission of required medical evidence has slowed.
Thankfully, the agency has started to roll out video appointments between the SSA doctor and the client. In some circumstances, the SSA will schedule a mental health evaluation with the agency doctors, utilizing easy to use a smartphone app. This move will allow the agency to process cases that would otherwise languish until in-person consultations resume.
SSA disability hearings have proceeded throughout the Covid-19 pandemic without much issue. The hearings have been conducted entirely via phone. So far, we have not encountered significant technical problems or felt the judge was less inclined to make a favorable decision on account of the phone.
Recent news from SSA is the rollout of hearings conducted via video. Each participant (client, lawyer, judge) would virtually attend using a smartphone app. We are excited by this development, as this will allow the judge to view the client, which is often a crucial evidentiary piece to the case. For example, reading a medical record indicating a Parkinson’s patient suffers from hand tremors is less impactful than observing.
Notably, the client has the right to insist on an in-person hearing. An objection can be filed with the courts. However, the wait time is extremely uncertain, as SSA would not likely resume in-person hearings until a Covid-19 vaccine is widely distributed. Best estimates are for early spring 2022. Moreover, we remain hopeful the new video hearings will afford the advantages of in-person hearings without the risk.
The Covid-19 pandemic and impact on the SSA disability program remains a variable and shifting situation; please continue to check back for updated information.
As always, please reach out to Viner Disability Law if you have any questions. You can reach social security disability lawyer William Viner at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (720) 515-9012. You can also send a message through this website, Click Here