On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, the Social Security Administration (SSA) halted all in person services to the public including hearings, representative payee monitoring reviews, and more. Since then, the SSA has made efforts to ensure their operations run as closely to normal as possible. This means many updates to Social Security electronic services.
In a recent announcement, SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul stated their IT Modernization Plan was implemented less than two years ago. Since then, they have made self proclaimed “tremendous progress” in updating their systems. However, Saul also acknowledged some of their 30 year old systems are still outdated, and explained how quality service requires modernized technology.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some callers have reported 30-40 minutes wait times while on hold with SSA. To help support the increased volume of online and telephone service usage, the SSA recently released the 2020 Update to their IT Modernization Plan.
Currently, the SSA website offers a COVID-19 FAQ page, where many of the questions are related to the usage of electronic services. They also encourage people to follow their social media pages or subscribe to their blog for more updates. The following are questions from the COVID-19 FAQ related to online services.
Should I get help online or call my local SSA office?
As of June 9, 2020, the SSA requests you try to use online services before calling. On the SSA’s website you are still able to file claims and appeals, update your contact and banking information, request replacement Medicare and Social Security cards, print documents, and much more.
If necessary, you may use the Field Office Locator to find out which office you should call. Don’t want to wait for an agent? You may try calling the National 800 Number at 1-800-772-1213 and utilize their automated services.
Can I get in person help from the Social Security office?
If you have special circumstances and cannot get the help you need electronically, you may be permitted to receive in person help through a scheduled appointment. Unless specific arrangements are made prior to the appointment, you will not be permitted to bring anyone into the facility with you.
Masks are required to enter their offices. In addition, the SSA requires anyone entering one of their field offices to complete their self assessment checklist. You cannot enter their office and should call to reschedule if you answer yes to any of the below questions:
Do you have any of the following symptoms?
- Cough or sore throat;
- Fever (100.4 degrees or higher);
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing;
- Muscle pain or body aches;
- New loss of taste or smell; or
- Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
In the last 14 days, have you:
- Been diagnosed with COVID-19?
- Received instructions to monitor for symptoms or self-quarantine?
- Traveled outside the country? or
- Been within 6 feet of a person who was diagnosed with COVID-19?
How can my local hearing office help me?
By calling your local hearing office, you will be able to:
- Confirm your availability for a telephone hearing;
- Request to postpone your hearing if you wish to wait until an in-person or video hearing is available;
- Report a change in telephone number or address;
- Inquire about the status of your pending hearing; and
- Submit documents electronically via fax.
To send documents via fax, use the toll-free fax number with area code “833” assigned to the servicing hearing office. Anyone with general inquiries should call their local hearing office during regular business hours. All numbers are available on the Social Security Administration website.
What can I expect during my phone hearing?
Firstly, it is important to know you are not required to accept a telephone hearing. It is your choice to postpone your hearing until an in person hearing can be scheduled. Notices of rescheduled hearings are sent a minimum of 20 days before their date.
If you choose to accept a phone hearing, the SSA will expect you to be ready to answer their call a few minutes before your scheduled hearing time. They recommend you use a fully charged or landline phone in a quiet, private area. They also ask you please mute yourself when not speaking to help reduce noise and distractions.
You can expect to hear multiple voices on the other end including the Administrative Law Judge, a hearing reporter, a vocational expert, a medical expert, an interpreter, and/or your appointed representative. It is your right to seek legal representation for your hearing.
In addition to their regular and COVID-19 FAQ page, the Social Security Administration’s website offers a wide variety of tools and services. This doesn’t change the fact that the application and appeals process can be both confusing and time consuming. The experienced attorneys at our Toledo law firm can help you with:
- Filing an initial SSD application;
- Filing an appeal to a Social Security denial;
- Representing you at an upcoming hearing; and much more.
Call (419) 350-8277 or send us a message to schedule your free consultation.