COVID-19’s Impact on Disability Hearings — Our Ability to Adapt is Everything
The Social Security Administration has closed down hearings offices across the nation. Fortunately, our firm has been able to work with SSA personnel to keep hearings happening as often as possible.
Right now our current practice is to contact clients to evaluate the pros and cons of going forward with a phone hearing. Unfortunately, video hearings are not currently an option. If we think that it is in the client‘s best interest to postpone we will submit a request for postponement to the Administrative Law Judge. So far, the judges have been willing to grant postponements in the majority of cases for which we have put in a request.
While we appreciate the willingness of the judges to grant postponements, getting cases resolved is our priority. The phone hearings can be tedious. We have to have more patience and make sure no one is talking over the other person. We have to speak a little louder, listen a little closer. Yet, those frustrations are quickly forgotten when we are able to get a positive outcome in a case. I can not even put into words how good it feels to win cases for clients at a time like this.
In situations in which we have to postpone, it’s important to use the extra time as an opportunity to keep gathering evidence for the case. Any outstanding evidence must be tracked down. Supplemental opinions from treating sources should be sought when certain issues in the case continue to be unresolved. It’s also a good chance to get additional imaging and testing that is currently absent in the medical file.
It is also very important for our clients to try and continue to get treatment while we wait for a new hearing date. We know it can be difficult to access healthcare during this time, but we urge our clients to try other methods of seeking care. For example, downloading the MyChart app for your healthcare provider may provide you with the ability to message your doctor instead of having to go into the doctor’s office.
Consider sending your doctor a message to update them about your health and to see if they recommend a change in treatment, like medication dosage, etc.
Many of our clients suffer from episodic medical issues like seizures, migraines, and pain flares. They may be use to them and able to manage at home for the most part without seeking medical attention. However, continuing to touch base with your doctor about such episodes can create very useful information for the disability judge.
At the end of the day, your health is what matters most. We understand that our clients are very vulnerable both medically and economically and that this pandemic has posed a huge risk to their wellbeing.
Please know that our attorneys and legal assistants are here to keep fighting for you. Please stay safe.
<3 Sara Smith, Partner