Get Help With Social Security Disability Claims During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Here is what's changing in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and how to get help with your disability application or appeal.

In an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, Social Security has closed all field offices, hearing offices, and remote hearing sites to the public, but Social Security employees will be answering the agency’s toll-free line at 800-772-1213. Expect longer than usual wait times, particularly since Social Security has shortened the phone hours to 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. If you need to check the status of your application or appeal, you can do so at Social Security's website at www.ssa.gov (more on this below).

Status of Field Offices

For the time being, field offices will offer only phone services to most disability claimants. If you have an in-office appointment scheduled, a Social Security representative will call you to handle your appointment over the phone. (Note this call might come from a private phone number, as some Social Security employees are working from home.)

There will be a limited number of employees at some field offices to deal with critical matters in person. Field representatives can make in-person appointments for certain people in dire need of expedited disability determinations, reinstatement of benefits in dire circumstances, emergency payments, and interim financial assistance for SSI applicants. If you think you might qualify for an in-person appointment, find your local field office's phone number using Social Security's office locator. Otherwise, call Social Security's national line at 800-772-1213 for help.

Status of Appeal Hearings

Judges and staff members who work for the hearing offices will continue some work remotely, including:

  • holding telephone hearings (for claimants who agree) through August
  • holding video hearings in law firm and advocacy offices that are part of the representative video project (for claimants who agree)
  • writing and issuing disability decisions
  • developing cases for hearings, and
  • scheduling appeal hearings.

If you have an upcoming scheduled hearing, do not go to the hearing office; instead, wait for a phone call from the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO). (Note this call might come from a private phone number, as most OHO employees are working from home.)

The OHO staff member will ask you if you would like to proceed with a telephone hearing at your scheduled hearing time. OHO will attempt to hold the phone hearing at the same time that the original hearing was scheduled, but that won't always be possible. If not, OHO will request a waiver to reschedule and will hold the phone hearing at a different day and time, as soon as possible.

If you are currently scheduled for an in-person hearing and you don't want to waive your right to an in-person hearing, you are allowed to postpone and reschedule it for a later time, rather than proceeding with a telephone hearing. If you reschedule, however, your new in-person hearing date might be scheduled many months from now (Social Security will, however, attempt to prioritize critical cases).

If your hearing has already been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak and you weren't given the option for a phone hearing, OHO will work to fit in your phone hearing as soon as possible. You can call your local OHO office if a staff member doesn't contact you.

Telephone and video hearings have the benefit of getting your case heard faster, but there are drawbacks. Read our article on video hearings vs. in-person hearings for more information.

What You Can Do on Social Security's Website

If you don't have a lawyer or advocate helping you to apply for benefits or appeal a denial, Social Security's website can help you with a number of tasks.

Apply for Disability Benefits

Applicants can apply online for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance, a benefit for workers who have paid employment or self-employment taxes). If you have low income and assets, you can also file for SSI at the same time if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You are not married and have never been married.
  • You have not applied for SSI in the past.
  • You are not applying for blindness or low vision
  • You are not applying for SSI for a child.

Here are some tips for applying for disability online.

If you've lost your job due to the coronavirus shutdowns, read our article on eligibility for disability benefits after a layoff.

Appeal a Denial of Disability Benefits

The first step of appeal is a medical reconsideration or non-medical reconsideration. You can request either online. If you've already been through a reconsideration and were denied, you can request an appeal hearing online. In either case, you have 60 days from the Notice of Decision to appeal. Here are some instructions on what you'll need for the online request process.

Check the Status of an Application or Appeal

To check the status of your application or appeal, you will need to sign up for a "my Social Security account," if you don't have one already. After you sign in, you can choose to check the status of your application or of your appeal.

Status of Other Issues

  • Social Security will continue to make payments to SSDI and SSI recipients without interruption, by either direct deposit or mail.
  • Social Security will not start or complete any continuing disability reviews (CDRs) at this time. If you have a CDR pending, there is no need to respond to the review or request medical records from your doctor. Social Security will follow up with you once the public health emergency subsides.
  • Social Security will not process or attempt to collect any overpayments at this time.
  • Recipients of disability benefits are eligible for the federal stimulus payment of $1,200. For more information, see our article on how SSDI and SSI recipients can get the stimulus check, and use our stimulus calculator to determine the amount of your payment.

Getting Help With Your Claim

If your hearing date is coming up, consider contacting a disability lawyer or advocate to advise you on whether to accept a telephone hearing and to represent you at your hearing. Your lawyer or representative would likely call to the hearing from a separate location. For more information, read our article on working with legal professionals.

Beware of scam calls from people pretending to be Social Security representatives. Callers who are legitimate Social Security employees will not request payment or threaten suspension of your Social Security number.

Updated April 28, 2020

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