May newsletter

DECember 2021


Disability Law: Looking Ahead to 2022

Update on SSA Offices Reopening • Update on Student Loan Forgiveness • Same-Sex Partners Eligible for Survivors Benefits
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Update on SSA Offices Reopening

Recently, the Social Security Administration announced a plan to “reopen” its field offices beginning in January 2022. However, this plan does not mean complete reopening and business as usual. As SSA continues to negotiate with its unions, and COVID-19 continues to evolve and spread, it is likely that this will be more superficial than helpful.

Waiting rooms will have to be redesigned and protective barriers will have to be in place. It is possible this reopening will be by appointment only. Further issues will arise with the 2022 mandate that all federal workers be vaccinated. Many Social Security field office workers are concerned about their health dealing in close contact with the public.

A few Administrative Law Judge hearings are being scheduled in person. These are most likely only with hearing office Chief Administrative Law Judges who will spearhead the return to the offices.

Expect the reopening to proceed slowly, but there should be a start in January 2022.

Update on Student Loan Forgiveness

In a recent newsletter, we discussed student loan forgiveness for persons on disability who were not expected to have medical improvement so that their continuing disability reviews were five to seven years. Now the Education Department has begun a rule-making process, which will take time to work through, to expand those eligible for loan forgiveness to include people who have been on Social Security disability for at least five years prior to applying for discharge, or those who have an onset date at least five years prior to the date of applying for discharge.

If this is finally put in place, it will allow many more disabled individuals to get relief from student loan debt.

Same-Sex Partners Eligible for Survivors Benefits

In addition to retirement and disability benefits, which are widely known, Social Security also administers survivor benefits for families where a working spouse dies while insured with enough quarters of work coverage.

A widow or widower who is age 50 or older is eligible for some or all of the Social Security survivor benefits as long as the couple was married for at least nine months.

However, many LGBTQ survivors have been denied these benefits because they either were not allowed to get married or, once marriage was legalized, their partner died before 9 months expired.

Several lawsuits were filed contesting the denial of benefits to LGBTQ couples who were not allowed to get married. This caused huge hardship to elderly people who were dependent upon a partner’s benefits for living expenses. Recently, Social Security dismissed appeals in two of these cases and agreed that LGBTQ partners who were not allowed to get married, or whose spouse died within 9 months of legalized marriage, can now collect survivor benefits on their partner’s accounts. Denying these benefits was deemed unconstitutional in these cases and now Social Security has agreed. People who were denied these benefits in the past should investigate whether they are now eligible.



Training For Your Group or Office:

The SSDI/SSI world is constantly changing - keep up on these changes by scheduling a no fee in-service with your agency and community group. Often good for continuing education credits, our trainings will keep you and your team up to date! Call or email and let’s set up a date.

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