We recently posted here about the Social Security Administration (SSA) plan to hold administrative hearings before administrative law judges (ALJs) via the remote Internet video platform Microsoft Teams, beginning sometime this fall. As we discussed, in appeals for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in which the next step is a hearing before an ALJ, the only options until the video hearings begin are to have a telephone hearing or wait until the novel coronavirus danger passes and the agency begins to schedule in-person hearings again.
The SSA has a COVID-19 page where it discusses how it is handling a variety of coronavirus-related matters.
Agency staff will conduct business via phone, Internet, mail or fax whenever possible. The only access the public has to physical SSA offices in person is for a “dire need situation” by appointment. You may not bring anyone with you, and you will fill out a symptom and risk checklist to screen for COVID-19. If you feel sick or have any of the symptoms or risk factors, you may not enter and must reschedule your appointment.
No service is available for people who just walk in.
Missed filing deadline to request a hearing
If you missed the deadline for filing your request for an ALJ hearing after having been denied on reconsideration, you can complete an SSA form requesting that your COVID-19-related reason for missing the deadline be considered “good cause.”
If you miss your telephonic ALJ hearing, the SSA understands that the pandemic may have created a condition that prevented your participation. Upon request, the agency will send you a notice to fill out called “Request to Show Cause for Failure to Appear.” On this form you can explain the reason you missed and why it should constitute “good cause” for missing the hearing.
Representative payee monitoring
Representative payees are people the agency appoints to manage benefit payments for SSDI and SSI claimants who are unable to manage their money in their best interests. Payees are often family members or organizations serving claimants (like residential companies or social service providers). The SSA normally conducts in-person monitoring of payees through state Protection and Advocacy organizations (P&As), organizations in each state designated to oversee the well being of people with disabilities.
During the pandemic, in-person reviews will only happen if state and local coronavirus conditions are safe enough, and only using social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE). Otherwise, staff conduct reviews using phone and videoconferencing.
As we all work our way through this pandemic, we will continue to keep you up to date on how the SSA is adapting to continue to serve SSDI and SSI claimants throughout the application and appeals processes.