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Social Security Update: March 26, 2020

On Wednesday morning, March 25 I participated in a telephone conference with Regional Chief Judge Shelia Lowther. Judge Lowther outlined how the Social Security Administration is balancing the need for disability claims to be heard by judges in a timely fashion while at the same time attending to the public safety of all involved in the process.   Here’s what I learned in the conference call with the Regional Chief Judge:

  1. Beginning Monday, March 30, 2020 all hearings will be held via telephone or via video conference from the lawyers’ office.
  2. The Social Security Administration is committed to getting hearing decisions out quickly. Dire needs claims and the oldest pending claims will be given attention first.
  3. The five day rule is to be applied with more lenience. The five-day rule says that all medical records must be submitted at least five days prior to the hearing. However, the Social Security Administration recognizes that it may take longer to get copies of medical records in light of the current situation.
  4. Attorneys are encouraged to try to seek decisions on the record. This means writing a legal argument explaining how the client meets the definition of disability and avoiding the need for a hearing.
    NOTE: In the past, we have used this tool infrequently because it is rare to get a decision on the record.  We are hopeful that the Judges will look more carefully at these types of requests given this new directive.
  5. There may be delays in processing claims at the initial level. The Judge explained that consultative exams are not currently being scheduled.
    NOTE: A consultative exam is a medical exam scheduled by the Social Security Administration. We are hopeful that these exams won’t be delayed more than a few weeks but we will continue to monitor the situation.

The staff and disability attorneys at Stow Garvin & Glenn in Gainesville and Dahlonega are continuing to work all our clients’ claims during this unusual time. Please feel free to call us with your questions.

Nancy Glenn, Managing Partner