SSA Plans to Reopen Offices
The Social Security Administration (SSA) quickly made modifications to their services at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 17th of 2020, they ceased operations on all in person services normally open to the public including hearings, local office visits, representative payee monitoring reviews, and more. Select offices currently allow scheduled, in-person appointments to assist only those in dire need.
Most recently, the SSA announced plans to return their employees to their offices and thoughts on once again allowing in person services. The SSA plans to reenter senior leadership starting on December 1, 2021 and remaining workers as soon as January 3, 2022. This will depend on negotiations with unions, telework rules, social distancing guidelines, etc.
Teleworking Comes With Pros and Cons
The SSA reported making updates to their electronic services to ensure their operations ran as closely to normal as possible at the start of telework. However, during the duration of the pandemic, some callers have reported 30-40 minutes wait times while on hold with SSA. In May 2020 alone, calls to the SSA’s national 800 number increased by over a quarter million when compared to the previous year.
In addition, Disability applicants who prefer or require an in person hearing instead of one over video or phone continue waiting for a determination after nearly 2 years. SSA spokesperson Nicole Tiggemann admitted virtual services do not work for everyone, including those in rural areas or those without technology access.
Despite this obstacle, Ralph de Juliis, president of the National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals, reported that SSA employees love telework and, “have been more productive”. For example, the average processing time for a Disability hearing in 2020 was reduced by 25 percent when compared to 2019, from 502 days to 390 days.
Further News to Come
Whichever way you look at it, it’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic created and continues to create unique challenges for businesses and government institutions alike. While our Social Security attorneys have been actively attending virtual Disability hearings, we’re eagerly awaiting news on future SSA decisions. SSA’s safety and reentry protocols are still under works, and their winter reopening dates are subject to change.
If you’re in need of representation at your Social Security Disability hearing call (419) 350-8277 or send us a message to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys. We have decades of experience fighting for your rights, and are happy to assist in filing appeals and applications as well.