Blog Archives

SSA Implementation of Video Hearing Opt-Out Process

byron david, conway, scAs often happens when SSA changes its procedures, especially on a mass basis, implementation of the final rules [79 Fed. Reg. 35926 (June 25, 2014)] on objecting to video hearings has been rather bumpy. Claimants are confused when they receive the notices, sometimes with envelopes, sometimes without. This results in more calls and visits to their representatives. Representatives are confused when they receive the forms and hearings have already been scheduled, sometimes even for video hearings.

Articles in the July and August 2014 issues of the NOSSCR Social Security Forum described the final regulations and how SSA intended to implement them. However, at a recent meeting with ODAR Deputy Commissioner Glenn Sklar and his top management staff, including Chief Administrative Law Judge Debra Bice, NOSSCR representatives raised many of the questions and concerns experienced by claimants and their representatives. This article will try to answer some of the questions. Also, the SSA website has a brief summary, http://www.ssa.gov/representation/appearingathearings.htm. The regulations provide that prior to scheduling a hearing, SSA will notify the claimant that it may schedule the appearance by video teleconferencing. If the claimant objects to appearing by video teleconferencing, the claimant or his/her representative must notify SSA in writing within
30 days after receiving this notice, although the time can be extended for “good cause” as provided in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.936(d)(2) and 416.1436(d)(2). To determine whether good cause exists to extend the 30-day deadline, SSA will use the factors in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.911 and 416.1411.

New request for hearing: For a hearing request received after September 6, 2014, the hearing request acknowledgement will include language that the hearing may be a video hearing. A form will be provided, with a barcode on the form. As provided in the instructions, the form is to be returned either by mail in the envelope provided to the representative or by fax to the dedicated number provided. The fax number is provided with these notices and forms. Using this fax number directly uploads the form to the electronic folder.

Pending request for hearing but hearing not yet scheduled. For a pending hearing request for which the acknowledgement has already been sent, but the hearing has not yet been scheduled, SSA will send a notice that the hearing may be either in person or by video and an “opt-out” form will be included. SSA began to mail out these notices on a staggered basis over a 6-week period beginning September 19, 2014. These forms will have no barcode. They are to be mailed back in the envelope provided to the representative. They will be scanned into the electronic folder (although there may be a delay) and will appear in the “Case Documents” section. We know that the notices and forms have been sent in cases already scheduled for hearing, in some cases, even video hearings. We were told that a cut-off date was selected that was apparently overly broad. It is possible that at the time of the cut-off date, the case was not scheduled but by the time the notice was sent and received, the case was scheduled. What should you do? We were told that ODAR will not change already scheduled hearings. But just to be safe, you may want to send back the opt-out form if the claimant wants an in-person hearing. It is important to note that these are “onetime” notices and any confusion regarding pending cases will eventually disappear. conference_room_system

Answers to questions and practice tips:

Representatives can sign the forms. Consistent with the regulation, an authorized representatives can sign the opt-out form on behalf of the claimant. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1710. However, be sure to discuss this with your client as the choice to opt-out or not is the claimant’s decision. Some practitioners address this with their clients at the initial interview, which
is a good time to discuss the pros and cons of video hearings vs. in-person hearings.

Submit the form after the acknowledgment notice is sent, not before. Some members have asked if the form, HA-55, is available online and can be submitted with the request for hearing. The answer is “no.” The regulation provides that the claimant respond after receipt of the hearing request acknowledgment and the notice and form to opt out of a video hearing. From a systems perspective, it was explained at our meeting with ODAR that there would be problems associating the form if sent before the case is logged in to the ODAR case management system, e.g., if the form is sent with the request for hearing. The process is set up, so that the form be submitted after the case is logged in and thus will be associated with the case. It will appear in the Case Docs section of the electronic file.

SSA also is uploading copies of the initial notice to the claimant’s electronic file. The notice date reflected in the file is the same date the notice was mailed. SSA also is including the actual mailing date on all of the notices as well.

Use the envelope or fax number sent with the acknowledgment letter and form. If you are mailing back the form, use the envelope sent with the form. If you are faxing back the form (only for cases with a new acknowledgment letter), use the fax number provided with the letter since this is a dedicated fax number. Do not submit by ERE!

For already scheduled hearings, no need to respond. If you receive one of the one-time notices (for cases where acknowledgment letter previously sent) by mistake for cases are already scheduled, you do not need to respond. The scheduled hearing (whether in-person or video) will not be changed. However, as mentioned above, if the claimant is scheduled for an in-person hearing, you may want to go ahead and send the opt-out form back, just to be safe.

Claimant obtains representation more than 30 days after the opt-out form was received. We know that a common occurrence is that claimants often retain representation after a hearing has been scheduled and the hearing notice has been received. This will undoubtedly occur more than 30 days after the opt-out form was sent earlier with the request for hearing acknowledgment.

The new regulation requires the objection to be made within 30 days of receipt of the new notice that the hearing could be held by video and receipt of the opt-out form. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.936(d) and 416.1436(d). The prior regulations provided that an objection to a video hearing be made “at the earliest possible opportunity” (with no time limit) and would automatically result in scheduling of an in-person hearing. If the objection was not “timely,” then the ALJ would determine if “good cause” existed under the other factors in the regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.936 and 416.1436.

Based on comments to the 2013 proposed rule, including those from NOSSCR, the final rule added a “good cause” provision for extending the 30 days to object and send back the opt-out form if the objection is made beyond that period. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.936(d) (2) and 416.1436(d)(2). To determine whether good cause exists to extend the 30-day deadline, SSA will use the factors in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.911 and 416.1411.

At the ODAR meeting, we specifically asked what a claimant and representative should do if the claimant retains representation more than 30 days after the opt-out form is received and has not been sent back to ODAR and, after consulting with the representative, the claimant decides she/he wants an in-person hearing. The response was that the form should be returned with a request for good cause to extend the 30-day limit, with an explanation why the time should be extended. While not directly addressed, the request should be sent to the ALJ, if already assigned. If no ALJ has yet been assigned, send the request to the Hearing Office Chief ALJ.

Advertisements

Attorney Byron P. David Asked to Speak at the South Carolina Association for Justice Auto Torts Advanced Trial Lawyers College

Byron David

Attorney Byron P. David of Conway, has been asked to speak at the South Carolina Association for Justice’s (SCAJ) Advanced Trial Lawyer College this December in Atlanta.  David will be on the panel with esteemed colleagues, Attorneys John S. Nichols, Allison P. Sullivan and Bert G. “Skip” Utsey.  David’s segment is noted under the Expert College – Learning from the Experts and is titled “The Devil is in the Details: Settlement Agreements, Indemnity Liens”.

“I am truly humbled to be speaking at the conference with such respected and accomplished attorneys.  The Auto Torts conference is always informative and insightful; I look forward to being on the other side this year,” says David.

 The Auto Torts Advanced Trial Lawyer College will be at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, Atlanta the first weekend in December. Often described as “the best seminar in the region, if not the country,” the SCAJ Auto Torts seminar is enjoyed by trial lawyers from across the south.  It will include a variety of presentations on subjects ranging from technology and toxicology to neuropsychology and ethics.  Speakers will include well-known AAJ members and experts in their fields.

Attorney Byron David Named “Kiwanian of the Year”

Check out Attorney Byron David in this week’s Horry Independent!  Attorney David was awarded the “Kiwanian of the Year” award and passed the gavel to Chief of Police, Reggie Gosnell.

Byron David

 

Attorney Byron David presents Kiwanis check to South Conway Elementary School

Byron DavidAttorney Byron David, President of the Kiwanis Club of Conway, presented a $2,000 check to South Conway Elementary School on behalf of the Kiwanis Club.  The money will be used to help meet the needs of students. Pictured are, left to right, Denise Williams, SCES family school coordinator; Leon Hayes, SCES principal; Byron David, Kiwanis Club president; and Kiwanians Betty Moore, Larry Moore and Gail Anderson.

THE DAVID LAW FIRM REINSTATES JUVENILE DIABETES SCHOLARSHIP

DLF - Diabetes Foundation Scholarship

The David Law Firm is excited to announce they are reinstating their juvenile (Type 1) diabetes scholarship, “The Davids’ Diabetes Scholarship.” In 2015, there will be 2 scholarships available, each being $1,000.  The donations from the law firm will be awarded to South Carolina residents with juvenile diabetes, entering as freshmen to the college of their choice.

Attorney Byron David, a Type 1 diabetic himself, believes the scholarship will greatly benefit the recipient.  “I know, personally, the hardships of having Type 1 diabetes.  The insulin, needles, glucose testers, test strips and pills are very costly.” says David.  “I am honored to be able to help someone starting a new life chapter.  I hope to remind younger Type 1 diabetics that they are not alone and can still be successful, despite the disease.  I am proud of them for pursuing higher education and feel blessed to be able to help.”

The David Law Firm established the scholarships through the Diabetes Scholars Foundation, who will process the applications and ultimately choose the recipients. “The Diabetes Scholars Foundation is a non-profit organization that creates a platform for funding scholarships for juvenile diabetics.” says David. “I trust their expertise and sophisticated systems in choosing a deserving recipient.”

The Davids’ Diabetes Scholarships will begin taking applications in January 2015.  Deadlines for applications are not yet determined.  Attorney David will present the scholarship to the recipients once chosen.  For more information about applying and qualifications, visit www.diabetesscholars.org or call The David Law Firm at (843) 488-1415.

Social Security Administration’s Reduction of Field Office Hours

byron david, conway, scThe SSA OIG examined the impact of SSA’s decision to reduce Field Office (FO) hours to the public. For budget reasons, in August 2011, SSA closed FOs 30 minutes earlier each day and in November 2012, it extended the early closure to one hour earlier. In January 2013, FOs also closed every Wednesday at noon. As a result, FOs were open 27 hours compared to the previous 35 hours. SSA staff still works during the hours that the FOs are closed to the public, allowing them to complete work with
reduced overtime costs. The OIG found that the public was sometimes unaware and personally affected by the reduced FO hours, e.g., lost work time, increased transportation costs and time, and increased physical pain in repeated visits. Drawbacks included longer wait times, crowded lobbies, and limited appointment availability. The Social Security Administration’s Reduction in Field Office Operating Hours, No. A-01-14-14039 (Aug. 2014), http://oig.ssa.gov/audits-and-investigations/

The David Law Firm Sponsors Wreaths for Wreaths Across America

Byron David 6

The David Law Firm has sponsored 10 wreaths for Wreaths Across America Day.  Wreaths Across America’s mission, “Remember, Honor, Teach”, is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies a specified Saturday in December at Arlington, as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.  They also organize a week of events including international veteran’s tributes, ceremonies at State Houses and a week-long “Veteran’s Parade” between Maine and Virginia where we stop along the way to spread our message about the importance of remembering our fallen heroes, honoring those who serve, and teaching our children about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families to preserve our freedoms.

The David Law Firm’s wreaths will be placed in the Florence National Cemetery on Saturday, December 13, 2014.  Florence National Cemetery was originally created on land appropriated, and later purchased, by the federal government. The land was first owned by James H. Jarrott and was a quarter of a mile from the Florence Stockade. It became a National Cemetery in 1865, and remains from nearby Civil Aare battlefield cemeteries were transferred and reinterred there.

Florence National Cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

 

Byron David 5 Byron David 4

August – National Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Awareness Month

Byron David

August is National Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Awareness Month. Share this message and help spread awareness that Social Security offers expedited processing of disability claims for applicants with SMA through our Compassionate Allowances program. To learn more about this important program, and to see the complete list of expedited conditions, visit www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances.

I’ve heard that you have to pay a lot of money to get a good lawyer to handle a workers’ comp case. Is this true?

Byron DavidYou don’t pay anything at all up front. In fact, the lawyer isn’t paid until you “win” your case. The lawyer’s payment is taken out of your check, so you’re not having to dig into your savings or borrow money to pay for a lawyer.  Attorney Byron David knows the workers’ compensation process. He knows how to help get everything you deserve, everything you’re entitled to.

Here at The David Law Firm, we have years of experience in successfully representing people who have been hurt at work. We will do whatever we can to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

Almost any type of physical injury or mental illness caused by your work is covered. This includes broken bones and all types of sprains and muscle strains. Many times employees do not realize that workers’ compensation also covers other types of work-related injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome, loss of hearing or vision, lung injuries, heart attacks, strokes, hernias, disfiguring scars, injuries caused by repeated strain and occupational diseases.

Your employer’s insurance company is responsible for all authorized and related medical charges connected with your on-the-job injury. This includes hospitals, physicians, ambulance charges, x-rays, crutches, physical therapy and prescription charges. There is no deductible and you do not pay any of the medical costs. In addition, you are entitled to reimbursement for mileage expenses associated with your medical care.

The workers’ compensation system in South Carolina is a no-fault system. That means if you are hurt on the job, you are entitled to benefits regardless of fault. All employers in South Carolina who employ four or more people are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees.

If you were hurt on the job, call The David Law Firm today for a free consultation and case evaluation (843-488-1415). Again, if we handle your case, you pay absolutely nothing unless we win.

How You Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits

Byron DavidTo qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. In general, we pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.

Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called “work incentives,” that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work.

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.