Andrew B. Sapiro P.A.
8925 S.W. 148th Street – Suite 200
Palmetto Bay Professional Centre
Miami, Florida 33176
Well, its October, and we’re still on the Covid treadmill …..
The Social Security Hearing offices closed nationwide on/about March 16. The following day, I represented a client in the first of many telephone Final Hearings. For the record, Judge Cartledge approved the claim. And after the Favorable Decision was issued, the Baltimore Payment Center calculated the past due and continuing benefits, and issued SSD benefits checks, and my attorney’s fee.
This particular claim was what is known as a concurrent claim – meaning the client sought both SSD benefits and SSI benefits [Title 16 benefits – which are need based benefits]. Benefit calculations in concurrent cases are coordinated to avoid an overpayment of benefits. But this all takes some time, and the combined efforts of both the claimant’s local Social Security Office and the Title II Payment Center in Baltimore. The calculations were completed, the checks were mailed – or deposited electronically – and the claimant can now focus on his health and well being. So this short story has a happy ending.
After this particular hearing concluded I wondered how long my clients would face the prospect of remotely conducted Final Hearings. I thought that our Hearing Offices would remain closed through June – maybe July. And that things would then return to normal. Boy was I wrong. I am, it turns out, particularly bad at predicting the weather, and the pandemic. And I underestimated:
- just how bad this thing would get, and
- just how much worse this thing would get as a result of mismanagement by our Federal Government [yes, that means you, President T***p].
So at this moment, we are informed that our Hearing offices will remain closed at least through February. There may be an effort to transition from telephone Final Hearings to some form of electronic/visual Final Hearing. But we have not been told how or when this transition will occur. Communication of changes in Hearing Office procedure was lacking in the best of times – and these are certainly not the best of times.
My impression is that our local Judges are making sincere efforts to conduct the Final Hearings properly and fairly. And if you win, you really won’t care if the hearing was conducted with a Hearing Judge located on the cold side of Mars. But I do think that claimants whose cases are denied under the current circumstances will not have the sense that they have had their “day in court”. And my concern is that the Social Security Administration will be slow in re-opening our Hearing Offices.
Ostensibly, health and safety will be cited as the reason to keep the offices closed into the new year. But my news feed informs me that the Immigration Courts, who share their Federal Building with Miami’s Social Security Hearings Office, have been directed to re-open and conduct in-person Hearings at this time. So why are the Immigration Courts re-opening now, while the Social Security Hearing offices remain closed? I’ll let you connect those dots – and spare you the civics lesson.
At least our weather has cooled down. And all others things considered, outside activity will be safer than inside. So mask up, and hang in there.