Disabled individuals face challenges in applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, including a high denial rate and long waits for approval. Soon, however, they may be facing a new hurdle: The inability to get in-person help from a local field office. The Social Security Administration may be trying to redesign the way the agency operates so more of its services are provided on the Internet.
Unfortunately, sometimes disabled people may not have access to the Internet or their medical conditions may make it difficult or even impossible for them to navigate the complicated process of applying for benefits online. Without in-person field offices to provide help, these disabled individuals may not even know how to get started. A Boston disability lawyer can help with every step of applying for benefits and hiring a qualified lawyer may become even more essential in the future if field offices are closed.
SSA May Soon be Closing Field Offices
The Baltimore Sun reported on a draft memo circulating at the Social Security Administration that “suggests the agency could rely on the Internet to deliver most of its services.” The document was created as part of a long-term strategic plan that would be in effect by 2025. By this time, the SSA’s website would be used as a “primary service channel,” thus eliminating the need for individuals to come into local offices to apply for benefits or complete other tasks.
While the policy is not adopted yet and is just a step in the process of planning for the future, labor unions are already expressing distress over the fact that the proposed plan would result in many job cuts. If everything is done on the Internet instead of in field offices with staff, it is natural that the workforce would be significantly smaller.
Today, around 28,000 workers have jobs in SSA offices throughout the country. Nearly 180,000 people visit these offices every single day. The staff members at the office handle requests from visitors ranging from a simple need for a new Social Security card to complicated disability benefits claims.
Unfortunately, service is already diminishing nationwide. In 2012, the agency cut hours and required most local field offices to close their doors no later than 3:00 p.m.
A spokesperson from the Center for Technology in Government at the University of Albany expressed the importance of having a person available to answer questions and provide assistance. She indicated that special needs populations, especially, may require an intermediary to guide them and help them understand what they need to do in order to get benefits. However, this intermediary could be call center staff or could conduct an online chat rather than be present in person.
The transition to the Internet, if it occurs, is still a ways off and the disabled can continue to get assistance with their applications from a local office. Hiring an attorney is still advisable, though, as your lawyer is the only advocate who will look out for your interest above all others when assisting with your disability benefits claim.
Call our Boston SSDI attorneys for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
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The Disabled Need More Help- Not Benefit Cuts , March 10, 2014, Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Lawyer Blog