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2020 has been a year of breaking news—articles flood your news feed every day and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and nonstop political changes, some smaller stories (and even some pieces of good news) can go unnoticed. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. For instance, you might have missed that Commissioner of Social Security, Andrew Saul was recently named a 2020 Influencer in Aging by Next Avenue, a digital publication from PBS.

 This is great news that brings attention to some of the important work that the SSA has done recently to benefit the people who need it—particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. At Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, this recent progress is highly relevant to our work as a specialty SSA law firm. We accept clients and help them as they apply for and go through the application and appeal process for SSDI, and SSI claims—social security lawyers have the experience to get clients through what can be a frustrating, confusing, and time-consuming process.

During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the SSA under Commissioner Saul has worked to change the claims process and make it more accessible, to shorten wait times for disability hearings, and to make the SSA a less frustrating and more modernized agency to work with. After all, with more people reaching 65 every day as the baby boom generation hits retirement, the system is approaching uncharted water with the strain it could soon be under. Here, we’ll break down what this honor means, and what’s been going on in the Social Security Administration during COVID-19.

Who is Commissioner Andrew Saul?

The Social Security Administration is a federal agency, with headquarters near Baltimore, that provides social programs—including retirement and disability. While it has existed since 1935, it has been an independent group since 1994. And since June 2019, over 63,000 employees who work for the administration around the country have been led by Commissioner of Social Security Andrew Saul, whose six-year term runs to 2025.

Commissioner Saul has had a long career with the federal government. Before working for the SSA, he worked as the Chair of the Federal Thrift Investment Board, which administers retirement savings plans for military members and federal employees. He’s also been a chairman of the finance committee for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation authority, a chairman for various committees for the Mount Sinai Health System, and a chairman on a committee for the National Gallery of Art. His experience working with businesses and finance comes from a background acquired at the Wharton School of Finance and experience managing large retail chains.

How have Commissioner Saul and the SSA made changes recently?

Commissioner Saul was sworn in only months before the pandemic shuttered the country in March 2020, something that definitely didn’t help to further his first goal—improving customer service and wait times at the SSA. Many of us have found 2020 a test of patience—long lines, slowed services, and closures have strained many people left at home. But the SSA was known to be slow even before the 2020 pandemic lockdown—many offices were closed and wait times were often very long.

Commissioner Saul continued to push to support the people the SSA serves—he told Next Avenue that, “every decision that we make here has to be for the benefit of the beneficiaries” and emphasized modernizing the agency as a whole to cut down on wait times. To further this aim, he hired more operators to cut phone-line waits, suggested implementing appointments and express-services to streamline services in field offices and has worked to revamp the SSA’s website to make it more user-friendly.  

COVID-19 brought about some big changes as the SSA transitioned to have employees work from home and to hold disability hearings over virtual platforms. Saul has worked to cut wait times for those hearings—both before and after the pandemic hit. That’s a major benefit and boon for those who are unable to work and need their benefits to stay afloat and pay their bills.

 What is Next Avenue’s Influencer in Aging list?

 Commissioner Saul’s work to support the beneficiaries of the SSA earned him a big honor from Next Avenue, a digital journalism platform launched by PBS in 2012. The publication is specifically aimed at baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—and features articles of interest to them. The editors select the yearly Influencers in Aging list to honor twelve people whose work over the past year has changed the way we as a country think about aging or has helped to redefine what aging means.

 Writers, artists, researchers, health care workers, businesspeople, and ordinary citizens are all among the number of people who have been honored since the first list was produced in 2015. Some nominations are put forward by the general public—2020 has honored more of those people suggested by members of the public than any year before. Commissioner Saul joins eleven others who appear on the list in 2020.

 How can Heermans Disability Law Firm help you as you navigate the SSA?

Having a lawyer by your side for a social security disability appeal can make all the difference—it might even be the difference between getting the disability assistance you need awarded to you or not. Heermans is your best bet for getting the help you need—our legal specialists have more experience than a general practice lawyer and a more intimate personalized firm like ours can give you more specialized services than a big national firm—and has the advantage of knowing the area, locations, and judges. We serve Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana proudly with Southern hospitality and the respect you deserve.  

 While the SSA under Commissioner Saul’s leadership works to make the disability application and hearing process more efficient and understandable, the process can still be overwhelming. Whether you’re just starting out wondering if you can make a disability claim or your claim has been denied, we’re here to help every step of the way. Contact us and briefly describe your situation and we will get back to you for a FREE evaluation or give us a call at 901-244-0057.

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