Over the past year, I think we would all agree that the COVID pandemic has had a dramatic impact on our lives. We have all had to adjust and figure out new ways to do things. Perhaps the biggest change for Social Security disability claims over the past year has been the change to telephone hearings with a judge rather than in-person hearings. While I prefer in-person hearings, there are some advantages to phone hearings that we have learned to use to our advantage for our clients.
Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, we have witnessed it becoming increasingly more difficult to be approved for Social Security disability. As the Washington Post explains, they are facing massive backlogs, which creates issues in some states. It is hard to say why this has been the case, however, most within our legal industry believe it is at least partly due to the leadership of Social Security commissioner Andrew Saul. Prior to becoming commissioner, Mr. Saul was in leadership with an organization that called for cuts to Social Security benefits. While we will never know the full extent of what went on behind closed doors under Andrew Saul’s leadership, there is no doubt that the environment for Social Security disability claims has been difficult.
Fortunately, there was recent good news for Social Security disability claimants. On July 12th a new acting Social Security commissioner was named to replace Andrew Saul. The new commissioner is Kilolo Kijakazi who was previously the deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy. She will serve as commissioner until President Biden selects a permanent nominee. It is widely believed that the environment for Social Security disability claims will improve significantly under new leadership.
This good news comes at an important time for many, as the expanded federal unemployment benefits are set to expire in September 2021. Over the past year, many disabled clients have held off on pursuing Social Security disability benefits because they were able to collect unemployment benefits due to the waiver of the work search requirement. With that program set to expire, those disabled clients who are unable to work due to their health should file for Social Security disability.
We represent clients at all steps of the disability process including at the application level. If you have been hesitant to pursue Social Security disability in the past, with the expected improvements headed our way, now would be a good time to file.