There is an old saying that change is the only constant in the universe. That saying is certainly appropriate for COVID-19 rules, as these rules are constantly changing. For example, the Food and Drug Administration just changed food labeling requirements for the fifth time in three months.
For many families in the Shelby County and Mid-South area, Social Security benefits rules and procedure changes are a lot more important than the label on a Twix bar. Most recipients count on disability payment for most or all of their income. Any uncertainty is stressful and any interruption could be disastrous.
So, at Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, we do not just provide information. We are also here to help our clients keep their disability claims moving during the coronavirus pandemic. Courts may be closed, but we are open, and we are available to assist you. So, never hesitate to reach out to us.
How Do I Get My Stimulus Check?
There have been a lot of changes in this area, and there is a lot of misinformation out there as well. The most recent official information is available here.
Most people who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and do not have a qualifying child will automatically receive their stimulus payments. For non-filers and parents who want to claim the $500 qualifying child tax credit, the rules are a bit more convoluted. A disability lawyer can help you respond appropriately.
How Do I Connect with an SSA Office?
Generally, the online portal is the best way to connect with the SSA, at least initially. Most disability lawyers in Memphis conduct much of their SSA business online. If you cannot use the online portal or it does not adequately address your problem, you can try calling. But be prepared for a very long hold time and a possibly incomplete answer.
Since most Social Security offices serve older people who are at-risk for infection, the SSA will probably be one of the last federal agencies to reopen. So, limited access will likely last for much of the rest of 2020. In the meantime, if you are in the Mid-South area and have a true emergency, contact Heermans Social Security and Disability Law Firm (SSA law firm) for help. That’s what we’re here for.
What Are Some Quick Online Links?
No one, even a Social Security Disability lawyer, wants to spend a lot of time surfing the SSA’s sprawling website looking for the one thing that’s needed. So, here are a few of the more commonly-used links:
- Request a replacement Social Security card,
- Obtain a replacement Medicare card,
- Get help with Medicare and prescription drugs,
- File retirement, Medicare, and disability claims,
- Change your address,
- Start a disability appeal,
- Determine your application status,
- Obtain proof of benefits,
- Print an SSA-1099 form, and
- Set up or alter direct deposit data.
If you need to do anything else online regarding Social Security or Medicare, you should probably start here.
What Should I Do About a Scheduled Appointment?
Do not cancel it. Many people wait many months for Claims Examiner reviews, file reviews, and other such matters. If you cancel the appointment, you will wait for a new one for a long, long time, especially since SSA offices are essentially understaffed during coronavirus.
Note we said “essentially” understaffed. There’s a big difference between essentially understaffed and completely unstaffed, just like there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.
If you already have an appointment, the SSA should call you at the appointment time. The agency should be able to address the issue at that point. If not, the appointment will be rescheduled. That will probably be a telephone appointment as well.
Note that this call will probably come from a private number. Be aware that scammers are trying to take advantage of this situation. Never pay a “processing fee” and try to record the call if possible.
How Does COVID-19 Affect the SSA’s Workflow?
Part of being mostly dead means that some SSA functions are completely shut down. This list includes medical disability reviews, non-disability hearings, most collections matters, and all FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests.
What if I Miss a Document Submission Deadline due to COVID-19?
Personally delivering documents to an SSA office is not an option. If the SSA required such action, disregard that notice. Legally, if you mail the document by the deadline, that should be good enough. However, the best practice is to mail it a few days early.
The SSA, like most other federal agencies, has a good cause policy in effect. So, bureaucrats should tolerate some irregularities and slight delays. But informal goodwill only goes so far. Fortunately, a disability lawyer can prepare a hardship letter on your behalf if necessary.
What About ALJ Hearings?
Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) typically reach out to us a few weeks before the hearing to set up a telephone hearing. If our client is fine with that, then it’s on. If our client prefers a live hearing, the matter will be reset, most likely for sometime in 2021.
Generally, the original ALJ assigned to the case will stay on the case. In some instances, mostly technical difficulties, the SSA might assign someone else.
Some claimants use Appointed Representative Services or Electronic Records Express in lieu of an attorney. It’s a good idea to occasionally log into your account to ensure everything is up and running. If you have technical problems, email OHO.HQ.ARS@ssa.gov or call 1-877-405-3624 (for EREs only).
You can count on Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm to be a resource during this difficult time. You can email us directly here or give us a call at (901) 244-0057 and we will quickly respond to you. Heermans specializes in assessing your case if you are considering filing for disability or if you are in the middle of a claim and find that you are spinning your wheels or if you have been denied and want an attorney to review your case for an appeal.
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