Geraty, Holub & MacQueen has received many questions about how the global COVID-19 Pandemic impacts Social Security disability claims.
Our 30+ years of experience in winning disability benefits for Virginians leaves us uniquely qualified to navigate through these times. The novel coronavirus pandemic has added to the delays and uncertainties facing disability claimants during what can already be a long, complicated, and frustrating process.
The good news is that we’re here to help, and we continue to accept new clients. We are available by phone (855) 282-7243 as well as email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Holub personally speaks with every prospective client, a service our firm has offered for many years. For the health and safety of both our staff and our clients, however, we are not able to meet in person.
Below are some common questions and concerns from Social Security disability claimants, and what we have learned from the responses from the Social Security Administration:
1. “I am not working or recently lost my job. Should I file a claim for Social Security disability benefits?”
If you have been thinking about filing a disability claim with SSA, you should do so.
All SSA offices are closed to the public, and you will need to file your claim online at www.ssa.gov.
In order to be eligible for a claim, you must not be working.
Our law firm helps new clients after the claim has been filed and we help clients at all stages of their cases – from initial filings to appeals to Federal Court.
2a. “How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting my Social Security Disability Initial Application or Appeal?”
SSI and SSDI disability claims are being processed by the local SSA Field Offices.
There may be longer delays, however, from SSA and the Virginia disability agent known as Disability Determination Services because all representatives have work-from-home restrictions and use telework.
Additionally, SSA often sends claimants to medical providers for a “Consultative Exam,” which provides an independent medical opinion. Due to the CDC’s guidelines on non-emergency medical procedures, the exam scheduling is experiencing delays.
2b. “How do I prove my disability claim if my doctors can’t see me and I can’t get medical evidence for my case?
There is no easy answer to this problem. SSA has not issued guidance to claimants and their representatives, so it is unclear how SSA will process new claims or appeals in which the claimant has been unable to recently see their medical providers.
Current, regularly-scheduled medical treatment is essential for all disability claims. Up-to-date medical records that document the severe functional limitations that keep you out of work are the most important evidence in your case.
You should work with your doctors to reschedule appointments, or see if your doctor offers telemedicine appointments.
3. “How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect my disability claim if I have a hearing scheduled before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)?”
If your claim is at the hearing stage, and you have a hearing scheduled or will have a hearing scheduled this summer, you may choose to appear at your hearing by telephone instead of a video-teleconference or in-person hearing.
Presently, claimants are given a choice to appear by telephone for their hearing, or they may choose to postpone their hearing to a later date where they may appear by video.
If you choose to decline a phone hearing and wait for a rescheduled hearing, the SSA has not issued a timeline that states when in-person or video hearings will resume.
If your claim is at the hearing level and you do not have a hearing scheduled yet, we anticipate the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) for SSA may delay scheduling until the mandatory social distancing orders are lifted. Or the SSA may schedule all future hearings as telephone conferences.
Since March 2020, we have had many clients successfully participate in telephonic hearings with an Administrative Law Judge.
4. “How will COVID-19 affect Appeals Council appeals? How will COVID-19 affect my appeal to Federal Court?”
Our recent experience shows that appeals to the SSA Appeals Council are proceeding, but delayed. We anticipate additional delays due to SSA employees working from home.
Federal Courts in Virginia are closed to public contact, but appeals are being processed and adjudicated.
5. “If I’m already receiving or about to receive disability benefits (either SSI or SSDI), will the COVID-19 pandemic affect my benefits?”
If you receive Social Security disability benefits, you should see no interruption or change in receiving benefits due to the Pandemic. If there is an issue, you should contact your local SSA Field Office via telephone with specific questions about your benefits or look at your SSA account online at www.ssa.gov.
6. “I receive SSDI benefits. Can I still receive the Coronavirus Economic Impact Payment (aka the Stimulus Check)?”
Yes! The US Treasury Department will directly deposit the money into the bank account that you use for benefit deposits.
Beginning Friday, April 17, 2020, US Citizens will be able to track their COVID-19 relief payment using the IRS’ “Get My Payment” tool.
As of April 21, 2020:
The IRS will use information from Social Security beneficiaries’ 1099 documents (Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099) for individuals who do not have 2018 or 2019 tax returns on record.
The IRS is now asking three categories of Social Security recipients to immediately register online to make sure they receive their stimulus checks in the full amounts.
- People who receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability insurance benefits and who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 and who have qualifying children under age 17.
- SSI recipients, especially those who have qualifying children under age 17.
- If you did NOT start receiving benefits until after Jan 1, 2020 and did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019.
If you fall into any of these three categories, you need to register with the IRS immediately. Got to www.irs.gov for more up-to-date information.
If you fall into Category 1 and did not register with the IRS by Wednesday, April 22, you will still receive your stimulus, but not for the full amount. You will receive the $1200 stimulus, but you need to let them know that you should receive additional money ($500 each) for your qualifying children.
A deadline for Category 2 has not yet been announced, but you should take action now to receive your full stimulus amount.
If you fall into Category 3, you will not receive a stimulus unless you register with the IRS. You should take IMMEDIATE action now to receive your full stimulus amount!
We at Geraty, Holub and MacQueen will update this post or add others to keep you informed as information becomes available.
We encourage you to call us at (855) 282-7243 today to see if we can help you. We are pleased to represent clients in Central and Southwest Virginia, including Charlottesville, Danville, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Richmond, Harrisonburg, Wytheville, Roanoke, Staunton and Culpeper.
Stay safe during these difficult times!