How the Social Security Disability System Has Changed Post-COVID

Social Security Disability System Post-COVID Changes

The COVID pandemic brought unprecedented changes to many aspects of our lives, including significant alterations the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income(SSI) programs. While many aspects of the system have returned to normal, some of the changes that we saw implemented have become permanent. 

Wait Times Return to Normal

Recently, we have noticed that the wait times to get decisions at various levels of the Social Security Disability process have improved and returned to pre-pandemic levels. That does not mean that the wait times are great because they are not, however they are improved. Right now, if we file an application for disability benefits, we expect to get a decision in three to six months. If we get denied and must file an appeal for reconsideration, it takes approximately three to six months to get a decision on the appeal. Lastly, if we have to request a hearing, it now takes us around nine months to get a hearing set. The most encouraging thing is that cases seem to be moving through the system from one step to the next, whereas during COVID we experienced many instances where cases went nowhere for months on end. We still have cases that get delayed or take longer than they should, however as a whole, we have seen improvement.

Social Security Permanent Changes Post Covid

Remote Hearings

Without a doubt, the biggest post-COVID change to the Social Security disability system has been the shift to phone and video hearings. Prior to COVID, virtually all hearings were in person with the judge. During COVID, all of our hearings were conducted remotely by phone and video (Microsoft Teams), and they continue to be that way today. The Social Security Administration is having in-person hearings now, however we do not request them because they take much longer to be scheduled. 

The vast majority of our hearings are conducted by phone now, and I believe that is the case across the country. Initially, I was not crazy about telephonic hearings, however, over time my thoughts have changed on them. The main reason I like them is because they are less stressful on my clients because they can do it from the comfort of their own home. If my clients are more relaxed, they generally do a better job of testifying. Of course, there are cases where it is important for the judge to visually be able to see the claimant to fully understand their disability. In those instances, we request video hearings. 

As a result of the change to phone and video hearings, our cases are often assigned to judges throughout the United States. This happens because when there is a back log of cases in a particular hearing office, they can be reassigned to another hearing office that does not have as much of a backlog. Since hearings are remote now, it is very easy for another hearing office be able to help with cases not in their region. 

As an attorney, this can be frustrating, because I often have hearings with judges that I am unfamiliar with, however I have adapted to the new normal, and have learned to spend even more time with my clients in preparation for their hearings so they are ready for anything that may come up.

Telehealth Records

Telehealth visits are now a common part of medical records. Telehealth appointments are certainly convenient for patients, especially those who live in small towns or live remotely in locations where doctors and specialists are not accessible. In particular, we are seeing an increase in telehealth appointments for clients seeking mental health treatment or counseling. While these records are valid, ensuring they are detailed and comprehensive is crucial for substantiating a disability claim.

Get Legal Advice From Our New Mexico Social Security Disability Attorney

The Social Security disability system has undergone significant changes in the wake of COVID. While these changes present new challenges, they also offer opportunities for increased accessibility and modernization. As a Social Security Disability attorney, staying informed about these changes and adapting strategies accordingly is essential to effectively advocate for clients. If you or a loved one are navigating the Social Security disability system post-COVID, consider seeking legal advice to ensure you are well-prepared to face these new challenges and maximize your chances of a successful outcome. If you would like a free consultation to find out if we can help you, feel free to reach out to our office at 575-300-4000.

Joshua Worley
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Roswell, NM Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer
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