Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has scaled back its normal operations, and this means that eligibility reviews and other standard procedures for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries are suspended. In general, these changes should make life easier for beneficiaries during the course of the pandemic.
On March 17, the SSA closed all Social Security offices for in-person service, as detailed on the SSA’s “Social Security and the Coronavirus Disease” page on its website. Although many standard services can be requested or completed online or over the phone, ranging from filing initial applications for benefits and appeals to getting new Social Security or Medicare cards, other services are being suspended.
Under the Social Security Act, the SSA generally must perform so-called continuing disability reviews of SSI and SSDI recipients every three years to ensure recipients are still eligible for benefits. As of April 10, the SSA suspended all continuing disability reviews indefinitely and advised SSI and SSDI recipients not to scheduled doctor’s appointments or request medical information for these reviews at this time.
The SSA has also suspended the processing and collection of overpayments to SSI and SSDI recipients “where possible.” In the past decade, thousands of SSI recipients have been overpaid and thus need to return payments to the SSA, most commonly due to changes in the recipient’s total resources that put them over the program’s strict $2,000 threshold for eligibility.
The SSA is also not conducting audits of organizational and individual payees, who oversee the finances of SSI and SSDI beneficiaries. Furthermore, the SSA is not responding to information requests from third parties, other than from payees, or to Freedom of Information Act requests.
Although in-person administrative hearings are adjourned for now, the SSA is holding some hearings over the phone. However, the SSA guidance explicitly states that applicants cannot be required to take part in hearings over the phone, and therefore can wait for in-person hearings to resume.
For more information and for updates from the SSA during the COVID-10 pandemic, click here to read posts on the SSA’s official blog, Social Security Matters.
For the SSA’s Coronavirus page, click here.