The Wait May Be Over for Those Who Need SSDI
During the pandemic 1,200 Social Security offices closed up shop, resulting in delays and denials for people who needed help the most.
In March of 2020, the field offices for the SSA closed down to lower the risk of spreading Covid-19. They posted a public notice that announced they were trying to protect older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions. They said they would still provide critical services, but the reality is they were much less available. They asked people to use their online services, but many of the elderly or disabled were not able to do so, and when they tried to call, the lines were tied up from all the calls from people who would have normally gone to the office.
People were not called back when they left messages or sent in forms, and there was difficulty contacting the SSA. Those with a disability now had to call the Disability Determining Services (DDS) to get processed, but then those lines became tied up as well. The whole system, which had been overloaded before the pandemic, began to break down.
Some Americans don’t have access to the internet and could only fill out applications in-person. By April, the number of SSI applications from retired adults decreased by 55%. The SSA saw a decline of 32% in the number of applications from disabled adults, and parents of disabled children had decreased by 51%.
Office Closures Affected the Most Vulnerable
Staggering numbers of people who needed SSDI and SSI have not been able to receive it since the pandemic began. The irony is, some of the people the SSA was trying to protect from the virus ended up being harmed by their office closures, as they could not get the help they needed. Though applications began to rise eventually, they are still more than a third less than before the pandemic.
Those with low or no income and physical or mental disabilities had difficulty reaching the overloaded SSA. As a result, many missed out on their SSDI and SSI benefits and most likely struggled to afford necessities.
Additionally, the SSA had difficulty procuring the needed funds for those who needed benefits, resulting in those who rely on SS funds for their income taking a huge hit.
SSA Offices to Partially Reopen in January 2021
The good news is, those who were denied funding because of the demands of the pandemic might not have to wait any longer. The SSA announced that they will open their offices as early as January.
SSA leadership announced that they will begin the process of reopening the office on December 1st to get things ready for the new year. If all goes well, offices will have employees as early as January 3rd.
The SSA offices will start with a partial reopening, mixing telephone and office support. This is a good start, but will initially mean long lines as the demand for in-person service is high.
Other Improvements Are Underway
The SSA recognizes that it has failed those it serves, especially during the pandemic, and is thus planning to use the reopening time to evaluate its policies to provide better service. Ralph de Juliis, president of the AFGE council representing SSA field office and teleservice center employees, said, “We cannot and should not return to the usual crowded lobbies and hours-long wait times that was so common at SSA field offices before the onset of the pandemic.” To mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and avoid this scenario, people will be seen by appointment only.
The SSA reentry plan reads. “Each [deputy commissioner] will evaluate their operations to identify ways to improve service, hire and retain the best employees and to operate efficiently including the consideration of potential space savings resulting from increased telework and information technology improvements.”
This means some of the problems present during the pandemic may continue for a while, with phone lines being tied up or those who can’t use a computer being left behind, but the SSA is working to develop a better system.
The other bit of good news is, if the current “Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust” bill goes through, the five-month wait time for disabled persons to get approved for SSDI should be eliminated. Though there may be some delays as things get going again, the future is looking brighter for recipients of SS funds.
We Can Help
In the meantime, we’re here to help you with the application process so that you can start receiving your benefits sooner! You don’t have to spend hours waiting for them to take your call.
Contact Lowery Law Group at email@example.com or call (843) 991-0733. There is no fee for a free consultation regarding your claim. Lowery Law Group is experienced in handling cases in South Carolina as well as Georgia.