With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, those seeking disability benefits must navigate their claims in new and challenging ways.
For instance, under normal circumstances, you could visit your Atlanta Social Security office to file or manage a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim.
Now local Social Security field offices have closed due to coronavirus.
It’s uncertain when offices will reopen, or when we’ll be free from this public health risk. But for the time being, claimants will need to complete tasks related to their cases online or by phone.
Most disability claimants are facing similar new obstacles.
What if . . .
- you have an upcoming Social Security hearing?
- you’re applying for VA disability?
- you’re mediating a Workers’ Compensation settlement?
- you’re considering retaining a disability attorney?
Each of these scenarios comes with its own challenges. To successfully manage your claim, it’s important to keep current on COVID-19 related updates.
Social Security COVID-19 Updates
Currently, all Social Security field offices are closed due to the public health risk of coronavirus, and it is unknown when the offices will reopen.
You still have remote options to file and manage an SSI or SSDI claim, or to manage your current benefits.
You can visit the Social Security Administration (SSA) website. This is often the easiest and most effective method to manage your Social Security information. When you access the SSA website, you can apply for benefits, appeal a claim decision, review your application or current benefits, manage your account information, and more.
You can also visit the SSA’s COVID-19 updates page to learn about your economic impact payments, monthly benefits, how to protect yourself from scams, information about hearings, and other resources.
If you prefer communication by telephone, there are several Atlanta social security offices you can contact, including:
- The downtown location, on the 28th floor of the Peachtree-Summit Federal Building. You can reach them at (866) 931-9946.
- The 3800 Camp Creek Parkway location. You can reach them at (877) 828-1694.
You can also contact the national SSA office at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm.
Likewise, hearings for appeals of claim denials are not currently being held at in-person locations.
Claimants are offered the option of telephone hearings with an Administrative Law Judge, or you may choose to wait for a video or in-person conference whenever regular business resumes.
You can contact your local hearing office if you need to confirm a telephone hearing, postpone for an in-person or video hearing, update your records, or request the status of a pending hearing.
VA Disability COVID-19 Updates
Regional VA offices are likewise closed due to the threat of coronavirus.
However, you can still file a VA disability claim by mail or online.
Additionally, while some locations have begun holding in-person C&P exams, many are being held via telehealth (phone or video). Note that not all disabilities are suitable for telehealth exams, so there’s still a chance your exam may be postponed.
The VA is also conducting Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) exams, meaning they’ll review your medical records so that in many cases you may not need a C&P exam.
You may be curious about changes to your GI Bill educational benefits, other VA appointments, how to handle paperwork and signatures related to your claim or appeal, information about your COVID-19 stimulus check and how it affects your benefits, and more.
These and many other COVID-related questions can be clarified by checking the VA’s COVID-19 FAQ page.
Workers’ Compensation COVID-19 Updates
According to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation, as of July 12, in-person hearings are being permitted when following a set of strict guidelines to ensure the health and safety of those involved.
However, Administrative Law Judges will hold virtual hearings via a video conferencing platform if all parties consent to this format.
The judges will also consider issues in Worker’s Compensation claims that the parties agree can be submitted on stipulated facts, along with each party’s supporting documentary evidence, in lieu of a hearing.
To set up a remote hearing or submit issues on the record in lieu of a hearing, contact the assigned judge or call 770-531-5625.
Mediations are being temporarily handled via telephone or secure, private Zoom teleconferencing. Be sure to log in to the teleconference on a secure (non-public) network with a strong internet connection or be available via phone at the appointed time, or you will be considered a “no-show,” and your mediation will be removed from the calendar.
If you have questions about your mediation or need to request a reset date and time, call 404-656-2939.
Retaining a Disability Attorney During COVID-19
Under the best of circumstances, you may need an experienced attorney to advocate on your behalf and help maximize your chances for a positive outcome for your case.
It’s challenging to navigate a disability benefits claim and appeals process alone. The impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated those challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a negative financial impact on many households, including job loss, reduced work hours, business closures, and more.
While finances may be a concern, it’s still worth it to consider the benefits of retaining a disability attorney.
In certain instances you won’t pay an upfront fee when you retain a lawyer for your disability claim.
You can call us remotely at (404) 795-7227.
Seeking disability benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic may feel overwhelming, but with the right lawyer, you don’t have to go through this process alone.
If your Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck and Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 795-7227.