Join Us – Lessons Learned from SSA Demonstrations State-of-the-Science Meeting
We invite you to attend a full-day virtual event to discuss lessons learned from past tests of policies and programs to improve beneficiary work outcomes and directions for future research. The event is on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, from 9:45 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. ET. Register for the Lessons Learned from SSA Demonstrations State-of-the-Science Meeting.
Over the past several decades, SSA has tested new policies and programs to improve work outcomes for beneficiaries. These demonstrations have addressed topics including family supports, children, informational notices, changes to benefit calculations, and more.
At this event, over 30 leading disability and social policy researchers and experts will come together to present and discuss lessons learned about which policies, programs, and other operational decisions could provide effective supports for disability beneficiaries who want to work.
Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity.
Join Us – National Disability Forum on COVID-19 and SSA Programs - Mental Health Effects on Adults and Children
We cordially invite you to participate in Social Security’s next National Disability Forum on COVID-19 and SSA Programs: Mental Health Effects on Adults and Children. The forum is on Thursday, April 15, 2021 and will be held via teleconference from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET.
The purpose for this forum is to hear from medical professionals, researchers and academia about the mental health effects of COVID-19. The panel will explore the effects of COVID-19 on adults, addressing isolation, job loss, function, and their ability to work. Children are also affected; the panel will discuss isolation, lack of educational structure, interruption in special education services, associated declines in school performance, and how mental health affects a child’s ability to succeed.
Please register online by Tuesday, April 13, 2021, if you wish to participate.
We hope you can join us and we look forward to your participation. To learn more, you may go to the National Disability Forum website.
Social Security Form 1696 – Claimant’s Appointment of A Representative Can Now Be Submitted Online
You can now submit the Claimant’s Appointment of Representative - SSA-1696 form online and without using a traditional “wet” signature. Using your computer or mobile device, you can complete, electronically sign it, and submit the form on our web site using the Adobe Sign platform.
The online form does not require downloading of any application or software. It must be completed, signed, and submitted to us within five calendar days after initiated. The prospective representative will need to provide the following information in the form:
- Their own email address;
- A valid email address for their client; and
- A password that the prospective representative will need to share with the client to complete the form.
The prospective representative will receive an email from email@example.com with instructions to access the form, complete their designated sections, electronically sign, date, and submit the form.
Adobe Sign will then notify the claimant via email that the form is ready for them to review, complete, and sign online. The claimant will access the form using the password provided by the prospective representative, complete their designated sections, electronically sign, date, and submit the form.
Please note, the representative and claimant have five calendar days from when the prospective representative starts the process for both parties to sign, complete, and submit the form. Both parties will receive a link to access the completed form and can download a copy for their records.
You also can get to the form at the Representing Social Security Claimants page by selecting the Begin e1696 button. We still accept submissions in the iAppeals and Electronic Records Express (ERE) portals, and paper submissions via mail, fax, and eFax.
Important Update on Secondary Evidence
We are now temporarily allowing U.S. citizens to mail in an original or certified secondary identity document with their paper Social Security number (SSN) application (SS-5) if they cannot request a replacement SSN card online. Usually, we require an applicant to submit a State issued driver’s license (DL) or identity card or U.S. passport with their replacement card request. We refer to these documents as primary identity documents because they are the highest quality for providing identity.
Now, applicants can send documents we consider secondary, but still meet our authenticity requirements. Examples of acceptable secondary identity documents include:
- U.S. diplomatic passport;
- Military identification card;
- Certificate of Naturalization;
- Certificate of Citizenship;
- U.S. Indian Tribal ID card;
- Final adoption decree;
- Certified copy of medical record;
- Health Insurance or U.S. Medicaid card;
- School identity card or certified copy of school record;
- Life insurance policy with biographical information; and
- Marriage document.
Only U.S. citizens who must request replacement cards by mail while our offices remain closed to walk-in traffic can use secondary identity evidence. While we offer alternative methods to apply for a replacement SSN card, some U.S. citizens’ only available option is to apply by mail, including those who are:
- Not eligible to use our online no-change replacement SSN card application;
- Unable to access the appropriate technology; or
- Not eligible for a prioritized SSN replacement card appointment because they do not require a change or correction (e.g., name, date of birth or citizenship) because of an income, resource, medical care or coverage, or other service or benefit need (e.g., filing a tax return, applying for housing, or seeking an Economic Impact Payment).
We are only accepting secondary evidence for limited situations enabling us to help meet high demand for replacement cards without requiring U.S. citizens to mail important documentation.
Invitation to Partner with SSA to Reach Vulnerable Populations During COVID-19
Please join us for a national conference call to learn how your organization can help us deliver critical financial assistance to vulnerable populations during COVID-19. The call is scheduled for Thursday, March 25, 2021, from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET.
Many people continue to experience COVID-19-related hardships, especially those who cannot conduct business via telephone, the internet, or who frequently require third-party assistance.
To address the challenge, we are asking for your assistance raising awareness of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs. We are also interested in establishing local-level partnerships with your organization to assist with claims-taking and referrals to our local offices.
The need for your assistance could not be greater. We remain unable to accommodate walk-in visitors to our offices for the safety of both our employees and the public. At the same time, we have seen reduced filings for SSI and SSDI benefits. With your help, we will enhance our ability to connect more eligible people to benefits, including people with low-income, limited English proficiency, facing homelessness, or with mental illness.
Please register online by Wednesday, March 24, 2021 to participate to learn how you can make another positive difference in your community. We also encourage you to share this invitation through your networks. After registering, you will receive a follow-up email with the meeting agenda and call-in number. You will also receive all of the outreach resources that we will cover on the call.
If you have any questions about this call, please contact us at OEA.Net.Post@ssa.gov.
A New Secure Option to receive Disability Case Documents
We have developed a new, secure delivery option for case documents. Claimants with a my Social Security account can now access case documents through the Message Center of their personal my Social Security account.
This new process allows claimants with a my Social Security account to receive a PDF containing their case documents. To enable this option, claimants must contact the local office, hearings office, or Appeals Council branch where their case is pending to request the file. Next, claimants should turn on notifications in their my Social Security account Message Center to ensure they receive a text or email when their documents are available.
Learn more at Get Your Electronic Case Documents Online.
A New Method for Repaying Overpayments
Some people who have an overpayment debt can now repay their overpayment online. They can make a full or partial payment using a credit card, debit card, or bank account, using Pay.gov, a secure, online service provided by the Department of the Treasury. Only people who are not currently receiving Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments may use this service.
Our billing notices now include the Pay.gov website information. The notice also includes a new Remittance ID, a 10-digit alphanumeric number that the debtor will use, in lieu of his or her Social Security number, when making an online payment.
To make a payment, people should follow these steps:
- Use the link in their billing notice or visit Pay.gov and enter ‘Social Security’ in the search box;
- Enter the Remittance ID number found on their billing notice and repayment amount;
- Enter their name, address, and phone number in required fields; and
- Follow the remaining prompts to complete their payment.
The person will receive an email receipt, confirming their payment.
Please join us for the 2nd National “Slam the Scam” Day on March 4, 2021!
National “Slam the Scam” Day is an outreach campaign to raise public awareness of government imposter telephone scams. This is part of National Consumer Protection Week, February 28 – March 6, 2021.
On March 4, 2021, @USAgov and @USAgovespanol will host a “Slam the Scam” Twitter chat about all types of consumer scam. In addition, our Office of the Inspector General is hosting a Facebook Live event, featuring Drew Johnson, Chief of Staff in the Division of Consumer & Business Education at the Federal Trade Commission, to discuss updates on what we are doing to combat Social Security-related phone scams, and what the public can do.
Our consumer protection message is simple:
- Hang up on suspicious calls from “government officials” calling about a problem with your Social Security number or account.
- NEVER make payments with gift cards, wire transfers, or by mailing cash
- Report Social Security scams to the Office of the Inspector General
- Report other scams to the Federal Trade Commission
Visit our Office of the Inspector General’s scam webpage for more information about National “Slam the Scam” Day and Social Security-related phone scams.
New Fact Sheets Added to Online Statement
We have added new fact sheets to accompany the online Social Security Statement. The fact sheets are designed to provide clarity and useful information, based on your age group and earnings situation. They can help you better understand Social Security programs and benefits.
The fact sheets cover:
- Retirement planning for four different age groups (Ages 18-48, 49-60, 61-69 and 70+).
- Four earnings related fact sheets for:
- Workers with non-covered earnings who may be subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision/Government Pension Offset;
- Workers who are not fully insured;
- Workers with an intermittent work history; and
- New workers.
- Medicare planning.
The fact sheets help educate workers about Social Security so they can make informed decisions based on their specific situation.
Visit our Social Security Statement page to learn more.
Important Update Regarding Online Video Hearings
We announced on September 3, 2020, a new option for people awaiting a hearing. In addition to telephone hearings, we will begin offering claimants the option to participate in an online video hearing using the Microsoft Teams platform. Beginning in December 2020, we will send special notices that explain hearing options during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our mailing will include a form where the claimant can agree to a telephone hearing, online video hearing, or both.
This new, free service will allow claimants and their representatives to participate in the hearing from anywhere they have access to a camera-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer and access to the internet. This stable and secure online platform allows the administrative law judge to see and interact with claimants and their representatives just like an in-person hearing, while maintaining privacy. Other hearing witnesses, such as medical or vocational experts, may participate by phone only.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of finding new ways to serve the public,” said Commissioner of Social Security Andrew Saul. “For over a decade, the agency has used video hearings to get applicants their hearing decisions sooner. This advancement builds on that effort, making it easier and more convenient to attend a hearing remotely, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. To continue to ensure all participants’ safety, we expect online video hearings and telephone hearings will be the only two hearing options for the foreseeable future.”
New my Social Security Features Help with Planning for the Future!
my Social Security now offers a wider range of features and benefits for both beneficiaries and those not receiving benefits.
Beneficiaries will continue to get information tailored to them, and can print a benefit verification letter and SSA-1099, change their address and direct deposit information, request a replacement Social Security card, and more.
Someone not receiving benefits now has more reasons to use my Social Security. In addition to being able to request a replacement Social Security card, view their Social Security Statement, and find out if they are eligible to receive retirement benefits, they can now view the benefits they could receive based on their spouse’s record. If they are eligible to receive retirement benefits, they can also view their retirement benefit estimates at different ages or dates when they want to start receiving benefits, calculate the benefit their spouse could receive based on their record, and more. When they are ready, they can start the benefit application process online.
If they have a claim pending, they can also check their claim status with their personal my Social Security account.
Remember my Social Security is not just for people receiving benefits. We encourage you to plan for you future and manage your present by visiting my Social Security.
An Important Update about Statutory Benefit Continuation Election
We have experienced delays in processing certain requests for reconsideration of initial disability cessation determinations (including age-18 redeterminations) during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We will accept this delay as a good reason to continue (or resume) benefits when your clients file a late request and the following apply:
- The determination notice ending your client’s disability benefits (notice of cessation) is dated on or before August 30, 2020; and
- Your client’s request for reconsideration of the cessation determination is still pending with us.
Visit our COVID-19 page to learn more.
Join Us – National Disability Forum on COVID-19 and SSA Programs - Long-Term Health Effects
You are invited to attend Social Security’s next National Disability Forum on COVID-19 and SSA Programs: Long-Term Health Effects. The forum is on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 and will be held via teleconference from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET.
The purpose of this forum is to hear from medical experts and researchers about the medical impact of COVID-19, including special considerations for people with pre-existing medical conditions, multiple diagnoses, effectiveness and availability of treatments, gaps in access to treatments, recent developments, and the long-term impact of the virus on their ability to work and their longevity.
Please register online by Monday, November 16, 2020, if you wish to participate.
We hope you can join us and we look forward to your participation. To learn more, you may go to the National Disability Forum website.
New Online Option for the Disability Update Report (Form SSA-455)
We are making it easier for people who receive Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income payments to submit their Disability Update Report online. This form is completed periodically by some beneficiaries for their Continuing Disability Review (CDR). The law requires us to complete a CDR to determine if a beneficiary still has a disabling condition. Access the SSA-455 online form.
Your Client May Be Eligible for an In-Person Appointment
During the pandemic, Social Security has continued to provide service online and by phone while our offices remain closed for walk-in service. Our local office employees are busy answering calls to their office. While we offer many online and phone options to help you, we recognize that in-person assistance is sometimes necessary.
Though walk-in service is not available, we may be able to schedule an in-person appointment in certain situations. We have updated information on our Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) web page to explain situations involving help with benefits or a Social Security number when we may be able to schedule an appointment. If you believe your client qualifies for an in-person appointment, ask your client to call their local office. They can look up the phone number for their local office by accessing our office locator. Please note that appointments may not be immediately available, depending on local health and safety conditions and staffing. An in-person appointment may be possible if your client:
- Is without food or shelter, including utilities or is without medical care or coverage and needs to apply for or reinstate benefits.
- Currently receives benefits and has an urgent need for payment to meet expenses for food, shelter, or medical treatment, and cannot receive the payment electronically.
- Is age 12 or older applying for their first SSN card.
- Needs to update or correct their SSN information (e.g., name, date of birth, or citizenship) to obtain income, resources, or medical care or coverage, or other services or benefits (e.g., filing a tax return, applying for housing, seeking an Economic Impact Payment).
Please visit and subscribe to our Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) web page to keep up to date during the pandemic.
An Important Notice Regarding Transition Age Youth!
Today Social Security released a notice to more than 340,000 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients between the ages of 14 and 17 (transition-aged youth) and their adult representatives to help them identify policies and other resources to assist youth in their transition to adulthood. These mailings include a notice introducing our annual informational publication, What You Need To Know About Your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) When You Turn 18 (Publication No. 05-11005). Caregivers are encouraged to review it with the child, if possible.
This publication helps youth prepare for the transition from school to adult life. It provides information about SSI work incentives primarily affecting youth, as well as information about common programs, services, and supports that parents, guardians, and youth may find helpful.
Specific programs covered include:
- Student Earned Income Exclusion;
- SSI Continued Payments (Section 301);
- Vocational Rehabilitation Programs;
- Department of Education’s Parent Centers; and
- Medicaid -- including the importance of keeping health insurance and having a primary care provider.
The publication can be obtained from the agency’s publication website in both English and Spanish versions.
We Want to Hear From You!
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is leading a multi-agency effort to understand how the services the federal government provides are part of a broader customer journey.
The OMB disability survey is open to individuals with a disability and those who help them. OMB invites participants to share what they have found most helpful, frustrating, and moments that made a difference in their family’s journey.
The survey is anonymous, though you have the option to share an email address if you are interested and willing to arrange an interview to discuss further. You can visit 2020 Federal Customer Experience Journey Mapping Projects to learn more about this important project, including how OMB will use the information participants provide.
Social Security Announces 2021 Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Increase
In 2021, monthly Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments for approximately 70 million Americans will increase by 1.3 percent.
Visit our blog for more details about the COLA increase.
Important Notice Regarding Direct Fee Payments
On October 5, 2020, we published a Notice in the Federal Register on the requirement for representatives who request direct fee payment to submit all evidence electronically to the Office of Hearings Operations or Appeals Council for disability cases that have an electronic folder. We will apply the notice beginning on November 4, 2020, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The requirement eliminates the need for our staff to process evidence manually and associates it with the correct claims folder, promotes administrative efficiency, reduces the amount of paper evidence that requires physical handling and processing by our employees and contractors, and minimizes errors that may occur through manual processing. While we planned to issue this new requirement prior to the current COVID-19 national public health emergency, pursuing it now is even more critical because contactless transmission of evidence limits the need to handle documents manually.
This requirement will not apply directly to claimants or to representatives who are ineligible for or do not request direct fee payment- they may continue to submit evidence via non-electronic means, but we strongly encourage all parties to use electronic methods for efficiency reasons. The requirement for direct pay representatives constitutes an affirmative duty under 20 CFR 404.1740(b) (4) and 416.1540(b) (4). We may investigate to determine if representatives have violated this duty if they fail to adhere to this requirement. However, we will not reject or delay a claimant's hearing or process a claim differently if the representative fails to comply.
There may be a few situations where case characteristics, our systems, or other limitations preclude a representative's ability to submit evidence electronically. In these situations, we will consider the representative's individual circumstances.
Important Update for Appointed Representatives!
Starting September 19, 2020, we added the ability for Appointed Representatives (ARs) to access their cases pending at the initial and reconsideration levels, including continuing disability review cases. ARs can now view these documents in the Disability Related Development and Medical Evidence sections of the eFolder. These are sections E and F, respectively.
Since 2011, Appointed Representative Services (ARS) has provided the ability for ARs to access their clients’ electronic folders (eFolders) for cases pending at the hearings and appeals levels.
ARs already enrolled in ARS have immediate access to their initial and reconsideration level cases. If an AR cannot access a case at the initial and reconsideration levels, it is likely their SSA-1696 (Appointment of Representative) is not yet processed. They will have access as soon as the field office processes their SSA-1696. As a reminder, ARS will suspend a user’s account when they have attempted to access 10 SSNs in a 24-hour period for which they are not the representative of record (i.e., cases where the 1696s are not processed). ARs who have been blocked from their account should contact the Electronic Records Express (ERE) Helpdesk to have their account unblocked. We strongly recommend ARs keep this limitation in mind when accessing initial and reconsideration cases.
The Office of Hearings Operations will continue the current process of enrolling ARs who have cases pending at the hearings or appeals levels. ARs who only have cases pending at the initial and reconsideration levels are not eligible to enroll at this time.
Please remember ARs have a responsibility to protect the data and information in claimant folders. This includes information about the claimants and their evidence providers (i.e., EIN/TIN).
Update on Social Security Hearing Offices
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we took unprecedented measures to protect both the public and our employees. These measures included closing our more than 1,400 field and hearing offices to in-person service; allowing our employees to work remotely; and pausing certain actions that could have resulted in a continued reduction, suspension, or termination of benefits or payments under titles II, VIII, or XVI of the Social Security Act (Act).
Beginning on August 31, 2020, we resumed these workloads, including certain hearings-related workloads that had been paused since mid-March, including:
- Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) and Age-18 Redeterminations hearings and decisions; and
- Non-disability hearings and decisions.
At the same time, we continue to recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic may give rise to circumstances that may constitute good cause for missing an appeal deadline or failing to appear at a scheduled hearing. On August 31, 2020, we provided guidance to hearings offices that administrative law judges may resume issuing dismissals for late-filing of a hearing or failure to appear at a hearing.
To ensure hearing offices are appropriately issuing these types of dismissals (late filing or failure to appear at a hearing), hearing offices will now develop the record for good cause by issuing a Request to Show Cause for Late Filing or Failure to Appear notice.
This added step provides one more opportunity, beyond our COVID-19 emergency procedures, for claimants to provide good cause for failure to meet filing deadlines or to appear at their telephone hearings. In addition to this added step for late-filing/failure-to-appear dismissals, we have temporarily expanded our traditional in-line quality reviews of hearing dispositions to focus on ensuring that dismissals are policy-compliant.