Social Security: FAQ for people who are applying for or receiving SSA benefits

Posted on: April 1, 2020

Updated March 30, 2020. This is a quickly changing situation. Please check back for more information.

I don’t get Social Security benefits right now. Can I still apply for Disability Benefits, SSI, Retirement, or Survivors Benefits?

Yes, but expect a delay in processing of your application. All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service. You can apply by phone or online.

To apply by phone for any of these programs, you can call 1-800-772-1213. But, expect to wait on the phone for a long time because of large call volumes.

You can apply online for Social Security Disability and Retirement benefits ONLY.

If you get busy signals or run into an internet problem, consider trying at times when fewer people might be doing so.

Social Security is prioritizing work on the following types of applications:

  • Requests for “dire need” benefit payments. This could be a person who doesn’t receive their regular monthly payment, a person who is currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, or a person whose benefits were suspended and can now be restarted.
  • Disability applications for those with the most severe disabilities, e.g. terminal illness, wounded warrior, etc. (You can find complete lists of the different types of severe disabilities Social Security is prioritizing at https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-expedite-ussi.htm and https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm)

Social Security sometimes wants a doctor to evaluate you before it decides if you qualify for benefits. If Social Security decides it needs to schedule an appointment for a doctor to evaluate you, then your application might be delayed further.

I applied for Social Security benefits. Will Social Security process my application?

Yes. But, as stated above, expect a delay in processing your application. If you are homeless or become homeless, or if you have a medical condition that has become terminal, or a medical condition that fits into one of Social Security’s other high priority groups, call your local Social Security field office to let them know. This could speed up how quickly Social Security processes your application.

If I am not in a group that Social Security is prioritizing, should I wait to file my application?

No. Your application date can affect whether your application is approved or denied. If you wait to file your application, you might be ineligible once Social Security considers your application. Also, your application date can affect how much money you are paid, and when you might qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. So, if you wait to file your application, even if your application is eventually approved, you could get less money and miss out on months of health care coverage.

I have a hearing scheduled. Will I still have my hearing?

Maybe. Social Security will call you or your representative, if you have one, to ask you whether you want to have your hearing by phone. If you want to have an in-person hearing, you should tell them that you do not want to have your hearing by phone, and you want to postpone your hearing. If you do not receive a call about your hearing, you should call your local office.

The numbers for the local Hearing Offices (Administrative Law Judges) in our area are:

  • Metairie Hearing Office: (877) 870-6383
  • New Orleans Hearing Office: (888) 297-2210

If you have a hearing at a Field Office, visit https://www.ssa.gov/locator/ to find the phone number for your field office.

I applied for benefits and got a denial letter before the COVID-19 Crisis. My deadline for appealing is coming up. What do I do?

You can appeal most decisions online at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html. You can also appeal by calling 1-800-772-1213. If you miss your appeal deadline because you cannot reach Social Security by internet or phone, you should still file your appeal as soon as you can and ask Social Security to accept your appeal because you had “good cause for filing it late” because you could not get through to the Social Security office earlier.

If you received a denial from the Social Security Appeals Council, then you cannot file your appeal online with Social Security. To appeal a decision from the Appeals Council, you have to file a lawsuit in Federal District Court. If you want to appeal an Appeals Council decision, we highly recommend you consult an attorney experienced in Social Security law.

I already receive Social Security Benefits. Will I still receive my monthly check from Social Security?

Yes. If you already receive SSI, Social Security Disability, Survivor’s Benefits, or Retirement Benefits, you should continue to get your monthly check. This is true whether it comes by Direct Deposit to your bank account, by Direct Express card, or by paper check mailed to your house.

If you don’t receive your monthly check, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to find out why. If you cannot get in touch with Social Security, if no one calls you back after three days, or if someone at Social Security tells you that you will no longer receive your monthly check for any reason, you can apply for free legal help from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. Because of COVID-19, our offices are closed to the public. You can apply for services by applying online at www.slls.org or by calling our COVID-19 Legal Helpline at 1-844-244-7871.

Before the Covid-19 Crisis, Social Security told me they were deciding whether I was still eligible for benefits. Do I still have to send my medical information and fill out the reports they sent me?

No, you do not have to for now. Social Security is not starting or completing any Continuing Disability Reviews at this time.

However, if you have your medical information and you have a way of mailing it to Social Security AND a way of keeping a copy of what you send for yourself, you should send them to the Social Security office that is processing your case. Likewise, if you can fill out the reports they sent you and you have a way of sending the reports AND keeping a copy of what you send for yourself, you should send them to the Social Security office that is processing your case.

Before the Covid-19 Crisis, Social Security told me they paid me too much, and I have to pay them back. Will I still receive my full check?

Maybe. Social Security has suspended processing and collecting most new overpayments. However, if your check was already being reduced to pay back an overpayment to Social Security, your check will continue to be reduced.

I have been paying back a Social Security Overpayment. But I cannot afford the payments right now. What can I do?

You have two choices. You can ask Social Security to waive the debt or you can ask for Social Security to change your payment plan so that you don’t have to pay as much each month. To qualify for a waiver, you have to show that the overpayment was not your fault and that you need the income and resources you have to pay your ordinary living expenses. You can request a waiver or a change to your repayment plan by phone or by mail.

To apply by phone, call your local Social Security field office. Visit https://www.ssa.gov/locator/ to find the phone number for the Social Security field office nearest you.

To request a waiver by mail, you need to fill out this form: https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-632-bk.pdf

To ask Social Security to change your repayment plan by mail, you need to fill out this form: https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-634.pdf

After you complete the form, mail your form and any attachments the form says you should attach and mail it to your Social Security field office. Do not mail original copies of any of your attachments. Keep a copy of the form and all of the attachments you mailed. Visit https://www.ssa.gov/locator/ to find the mailing address for the Social Security field office nearest you.

I received a letter saying I need to contact Social Security by a certain date, but I can’t get through to anyone on the phone or I get transferred to a voicemail and no one calls me back. Will Social Security deny my application or stop my benefits?

No. Social Security has extended deadlines to provide documents or other information it asked you to send in. You can contact Social Security once the offices reopen or, if you know what documents they want you to submit and know where to send them, you can mail documents to them. However, you should keep copies of any documents you mail to Social Security, just in case they are misplaced or lost.

I received a letter saying my Social Security benefits would be suspended due to COVID-19-related office closures.

Beware! This letter is a fraudulent letter. You should report the scam at https://oig.ssa.gov. Social Security will never:

  • Threaten to suspend your benefits unless you pay a fine or fee;
  • Promise to increase your benefits if you pay a fee;
  • Ask you to pay them using a gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card;
  • Ask you to keep something a secret;
  • Send any of your personal information via email (this could look like letters or reports; if you got them via email and they contain your personal information, it is likely fraud)

I have a question about Social Security cards or another question about Social Security that was not answered here.

You can visit: https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/ for further updates from the Social Security Administration

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