Hi, my name is Matthew Shupe. I am an attorney at Balin Law, here to give you some COVID-19 updates. As I’m sure you have heard, Governor Mike DeWine has put in place a stay-at-home order effective March 23, 2020 at 11:59 PM. I’d like clients of Balin Law to rest assured that we will be continuing to work on your case. Because we represent a vulnerable population, we are exempt from the stay-at-home order.
That said, because we represent a vulnerable population, we have been a bit ahead of the curve in putting in place all the safety guidelines that are now mandatory. Cleaning every surface and disinfecting at the end of the night, practicing social distancing. Half the staff is working from home and telecommuting. Basically, we’re doing everything in our power to continue to provide wonderful representation for our clients and also to keep the staff safe because it’s a bit of a cliché, but a business is nothing without its people. So far, the staff has been wonderful and professional throughout the entire process. Everyone is in good health and relatively good spirits, all things considered.
Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities
Other updates. The Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, which is the state agency charged with administering Social Security disability here in Ohio, a lot of those workers are telecommuting. You may have found that if you have called into their number, you got a busy signal or you were out unable to get through, that’s because folks aren’t there to man the phones. Cases are still being processed.
Social Security Disability Awards and Denial Notices
We, in the mail, are still receiving notices of both awards and denials of benefits from Social Security every day. People’s payments for those whose cases have already been awarded are being processed. The payment center for getting out benefits to folks is essential and they are working business as usual.
Pending Social Security Disability Cases During COVID-19
As for folks who have a pending Social Security case and have hearings pending at the administrative law judge level, those hearings are going forward, but Social Security has left it in the discretion of judges as to whether to offer telephonic hearings or just postpone hearings. We are evaluating the situation on a case-by-case basis. We have had several successful telephonic hearings over the past two weeks. Not much in the way of IT issues. Everyone was able to hear everyone just fine.
We have as well, of course, had clients who have instead preferred to not do a telephonic hearing and to postpone their case a little bit longer to get their in-person day at court. It’s really fact specific. Some cases, like let’s say for instance you have Parkinson’s or some sort of underlying physical or mental impairment that you need the judge to see and personally observe you, like you have an essential tremor in your hands, you have a tick, you walk with a walker; those clients, if they’re able to financially afford it, they’ve opted to not do the telephone hearing and get a postponement.
But the takeaway there with hearings is they are going forward. You have the option for a telephonic hearing. Again, our population that we represent, our clients are vulnerable and typically have underlying health conditions so we want you to take the order from the governor very seriously and stay at home to the greatest extent possible.
What About Laid Off or New Social Security Disability Claimants During COVID-19?
And this message just isn’t for your clients as well. This is for new folks that are going to be looking to explore their options, who have recently lost their jobs. My mom on Saturday got laid off on her day off. I tell you that because, one, it’s nice to vent, of all times; and two, this is going to be typical. I’m only in my mid-thirties, but this is the second time I’ve seen a big recession like this. The first people that get let go are the older folks or folks with underlying health conditions. My mom is a woman of a certain age with some chronic health issues. She was among the first layoffs at her company. I would be surprised if she gets her job back when all this is over.
For you new folks that have been living with health problems that have recently lost your job, consultations with us are free. We’re doing everything telephonically so you’re being kept safe and at home. Don’t feel like you’re wasting your time. Go ahead and give us a call if you just want to explore what your options are here if you have a valid case, particularly if this is all hitting you and you’re over the age of 55. Which again, that happened in my family just this past weekend and it’s probably going to be happening in yours.
I have gone on too long already. I have a bunch of different information to convey. I’ll do some more video updates. But again, my name is Matthew Shupe at Balin Law. We’re still here doing our thing, and it’s a privilege to be able to help people out in these difficult times. Stay safe.