Mar 23, 2020

Some Things I'm Hearing About SSA And Covid-19

     Here are some things I'm hearing about Social Security's response to Covid-19, as well as some things I'm wondering about:
  • It will be possible for Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) to do hearings from their homes. Everyone will have to be connected through the hearing office, however. This requires someone to be at the hearing office to initiate and end the recording process.
  • ALJ hearings will only be conducted between 8:30 and 2:00. I guess they want to cut down on the amount of time someone has to spend at the hearing office initiating recordings?
  • Snail mail and faxes may be a problem at field offices. The field offices do not have e-fax capacity. The plan is for someone, probably a management person, to go to each field office each day to handle the snail mail and faxes.
  • I haven't heard what will be done about snail mail and faxes at the hearings offices but expect the same problem there. For that matter, I expect the same problem at the payment centers but on a much larger scale.
  • A White House memorandum says that "It is recommended that agencies identify any impediments to using digital signatures, and remove those impediments, consistent with applicable law." Does this mean that attorneys can now submit appointment of representative and fee agreement forms that have been signed electronically?
  • Disability Determination Services (DDS), being state agencies, have differing setups as far as allowing employees to work from home. My state, North Carolina, has no capacity for employees to work from home. Other states have full capacity. North Carolina DDS has tried to solve this problem by switching to two shifts in order to allow more distance between employees at their cubicle farm. Of course, this won't work if we get a stay at home order.
  • There are already some physicians who have been doing consultative examinations for DDS who don't want to continue doing them due to Covid-19. This may become a serious impediment.
  • I have heard nothing about Social Security's centralized printing operation. Keeping that going has to be a priority but can they?


Anonymous said...

Had two hearings by phone with the Dayton, OH OHO this morning. Both went smoothly. The ALJ was in the hearing room but everyone else was by phone.

Anonymous said...

I had a specific conversation with an OHO staff member today about whether Judges would be doing hearings from home and was advised that they would NOT. That both the ALJ and the SCT would have to come into the office to do the hearing.

So it seems either SSA has not shared a specific strategy to all offices or this office has not shared information with staff at this point.

Anonymous said...

I am an OHO employee. From management at our office:

Starting on March 30, ALJs will be conducting telephonic hearings from their Alternate Duty Site.

I think that HCSRs will be able to log in from their ADS, to be able to use the DRAP.

EVERYONE needs to have a functioning Softphone.

We have been asked to NOT cancel any hearings ... as we figure all of this out, and implement it.

Anonymous said...

ALJ here. I did hearings today by phone from the office, went ok. We have been told to prepare to do hearings from home. My HOCALJ says we can keep hearings scheduled after 2 pm, for now. Seems to be changing daily.