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CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 UPDATES

 

 

 

 

 


 

GGL Law Firm

The Law Office of Gerald G. Lutkenhaus is open, but due to COVID-19, all in-person business is by appointment only and masks required unless fully vaccinated. If you are a NEW prospective client for Virginia Workers’ Compensation or Social Security Disability/Adult SSI, please use the contact form and we will email you back ASAP. Thank you and stay healthy!

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Social Security Administration (SSA)

Check Your Local SSA Office Operational Status

As of 4/7/22, SSA offices nationwide reopened for in-person service. Find your local SSA field office. Check the current status of your local SSA field office. SSA wait times are still high by in-person and phone. Therefore, SSA still encourages claimants to use their My Social Security account online, call their local SSA field office, call the SSA National number 1-800-772-1213, and schedule appointments in advance.

If your claim is at the hearing level and you need to speak with an SSA agent, call your local SSA Hearing Office.

For more SSA Coronavirus updates: https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/.

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Visiting Your Local SSA Office In-Person

As of 4/7/22, SSA offices nationwide reopened for in-person service. First find your local SSA field office. Then check the current operational status of your local SSA field office. SSA wait times are still high by in-person and phone. Therefore, SSA still encourages claimants to use their My Social Security account online, call their local SSA field office, call the SSA National number 1-800-772-1213, and schedule appointments in advance.

  • You must complete a self-assessment checklist to see if it is safe for you to enter an office.
  • Everyone must wear a mask. SSA will provide a mask if you do not have one.
  • Hand sanitizer is available.
  • You may need to wait outside because space in SSA offices may be limited. Please plan for the weather.
  • SSA asks that you come alone unless you require help with your visit. If you require help, SSA can only permit one adult to join you. Children are allowed.
  • If you do not have an appointment, you should expect long lines, especially during the busiest times in our offices: Mondays, the morning after a Federal holiday, and the first week of the month.

If your claim is at the hearing level and you need to speak with an SSA agent, call your local SSA Hearing Office.

For more SSA Coronavirus updates, visit https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/.

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Social Security Disability/SSI Hearings

Due to COVID-19, SSA in-person hearings are very limited for priority cases until further notice. Claimants can agree to a phone or online video hearing using Microsoft Teams. Objecting to a hearing by phone and online video hearing can cause a delay in scheduling an in-person hearing. For more: https://www.ssa.gov/appeals/hearing_options.html.

You can call your local Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) for the following:

  • confirming your availability for a telephone hearing;
  • confirming that you would like a postponement if you would prefer to wait until an in-person or video hearing is available;
  • updating your records to ensure we have the appropriate telephone number and address; and
  • providing status for your pending hearing.

Richmond OHO services the following SSA field offices: Chesterfield, Farmville, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Petersburg, Richmond, and Sandston. Richmond OHO contact information is:

Hearing Office Director: Rebecca “Becky” Wright
Mail:  801 E. Main St, 4th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219
Phone:  877-405-3665
Fax:  833-949-2150
eFax:  877-871-1880 (must use SSA coversheet with barcode)

Charlottesville OHO services the following SSA field offices: Charlottesville, Culpeper, Danville, Harrisonburg, Martinsville, South Boston, and Staunton. Charlottesville OHO contact information is:

Hearing Office Director: James Dodrill
Mail:  1470 Pantops Mountain Place, 2nd Floor, Charlottesville, VA 22911
Phone:  1-866-613-2969
Fax:  833-659-0418
eFax:  877-390-2321 (must use SSA coversheet with barcode)

Norfolk OHO services the following SSA field offices: Accomack, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. Norfolk OHO contact information is:

Hearing Office Director: Mary A. Smith
Mail: 5850 Lake Herbert Dr, 3rd Floor, Norfolk, VA 23502
Phone:  866-931-9167
Fax:  833-659-0420
eFax:  877-871-1879 (must use SSA coversheet with barcode)

Washington, DC OHO services the following SSA field offices: Anacostia, Downtown/D Street, Postal Plaza in DC; Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Manassas in Virginia; and Camp Springs, Greenbelt, Rockville, and Silver Spring in Maryland.

Hearing Office Director: James C. Walsh
Mail: 1227 25th St NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 866-414-6259
Fax: 833-949-2152
eFax: 877-548-8583 (must use SSA coversheet with barcode)

Roanoke OHO services the following SSA field offices: Bristol, Covington, Roanoke, Wise, Wytheville in Virginia; and Bluefield in West Virginia.

Hearing Office Director:
Mail: 612 South Jefferson St, Suite 200, Roanoke, VA 24011
Phone: 866-592-3548
Fax: 833-659-0415
eFax: 877-871-1881 (must use SSA coversheet with barcode)

For more OHO locations, use the SSA Hearing Office Locator.

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SSA Online Services

As of 4/7/22, SSA offices nationwide reopened for in-person service. However, wait times are very high in-person and by phone. Therefore, use of SSA online services is strongly encouraged. SSA offers many services online, including:

If you can’t use SSA online services, then you can call the SSA National Number 1-800-772-1213 and use the Automated Telephone Services. Almost all of the SSA online services are also available via Automated Telephone Services. If you must speak with an SSA agent, call your local SSA field office. Waiting to speak with an SSA agent on the SSA National Number can take up to 90 minutes or more due to high call volume.

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When to Call the SSA National Number 1-800-772-1213 and use the Automated Services

SSA offers several automated telephone services that you can do 24 hours a day without speaking with an agent. Almost all of the SSA Automated Telephone Services are also available online (click the links below).

If you can’t handle your business through SSA’s automated services, you can speak with an SSA agent. However, the SSA National Number can have call wait times of up to 90 minutes or more, so first try calling your local SSA field office.

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When to Call Your Local SSA Field Office

As of 4/7/22, SSA offices nationwide reopened for in-person service. However, wait times are very high in-person and by phone. If you don’t need to speak with an SSA agent, then FIRST try SSA online services or call SSA National Number 1-800-1213 and use the Automated Telephone Services. For your local SSA field office mailing address and phone number, use the SSA Field Office Locator.

SSA field office employees will prioritize the following “critical” issues:

  • Resolving payment-related issues:
    • If you did not receive your monthly payment;
    • If you are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless;
    • If you received an overpayment letter and need to request a reduced repayment schedule or request a waiver; or
    • If your benefits were suspended and can now be reinstated.

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When to Call the SSA National Number 1-800-772-1213 and Speak with an SSA Agent

If you can’t handle your issue online or through SSA’s automated telephone services, then you can speak with an SSA agent Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 5:30 pm by calling 1-800-772-1213. National Number call wait times to speak with an SSA agent can be up to 90 minutes or more. But generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call during the week after Tuesday. The SSA National number agents can assist with limited transactions and are focused on helping those people most in need. If your request can be processed online, SSA agents will redirect you to use SSA’s online services.

SSA National number agents can assist with the following limited transactions:

If you are NOT receiving benefits:

If you ARE receiving benefits:

  • Resolving payment-related issues including:
    • Change of Address;
    • Direct Deposit Change;
    • Death Reports;
    • Requests to reinstate benefits; and
    • Reports of non-receipt of payment. (Note: If you are reporting a non-receipt of payment, SSA will investigate and send payments by mail, or SSA will schedule an appointment for you to visit the office for pickup.)
    • Other critical actions such as taking Medicare and Medicaid applications necessary for health-care coverage.
  • Handling Representative Payee and other changes that ensure you continue to receive benefits.

To the extent possible, SSA will complete all other applications for Retirement, Survivor, Disability, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. SSA encourages individuals applying for routine retirement and disability benefits to apply online. Apply online for Retirement benefits or apply online for Disability benefits.

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How to Apply for Benefits on a Deceased Worker’s Record?

Widows, Widowers, and Surviving Divorced Spouses CANNOT apply online for Survivors benefits. You CANNOT apply online for Adult Child Disability either. Instead, apply by calling your local SSA field office or the SSA National number 1-800-772-1213. If you are applying for disability benefits on a deceased worker’s record (e.g. Adult Child Disability or Widow(er)’s Disability), you can speed up the application process by completing an Adult Disability Report and having it available at the time of your appointment.

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Will COVID-19 Affect My Current Benefit Payments?

No, COVID-19 will NOT affect the payment of your current benefits by direct deposit or mail. If you wish to switch your benefits from mail to direct deposit, visit https://www.ssa.gov/deposit/.

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Beware of Scams

Be cautious of scams threatening suspension of your benefits due to COVID-19-related office closures. If you receive communication claiming to be from the US Treasury, IRS, SSA, or other government agency offering COVID-19 related grants or economic impact payments in exchange for personal financial information, advance fee, or charge of any kind (including the purchase of gift cards), please do not respond as this is a scam. To report Social Security scams, visit https://oig.ssa.gov. Some scammers are offering COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details (including Medicare information), but the services are unapproved and illegitimate.

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What If I Can’t Appeal or Respond to SSA within the Deadline?

Do NOT go to the SSA office as they are closed nationwide to the public for in-person services until further notice.  Instead appeal online (also see next paragraph) or by mail with the appropriate forms by following the directions on the denial letter. To find your local SSA field office address and phone number, click here.

Usually, you have 65 days to appeal any denial (60 days plus 5 days for mailing) by following the directions on the SSA denial letter. The denial is presumed received within 5 days of the date of the letter unless you can prove otherwise. It is best to appeal online via https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html. You can also appeal by mail to your local SSA field office. However, if you cannot appeal on time due to COVID-19, then appeal as soon as you can and file a “Good Cause” letter with your appeal explaining your situation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, SSA is providing maximum flexibility in applying their Good Cause policy.

If SSA sends you a notice asking you to do something (e.g. return a form) within a certain deadline but you can’t respond in time due to COVID-19, just respond as soon as you can. During the COVID-19 pandemic, SSA is providing maximum flexibility.

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Virginia COVID-19 Community Levels

Check the COVID-19 Community Level by City/County (updated weekly): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/community-levels.html
People may choose to mask at any time.
People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.
If you are immunocompromised, learn more about how to protect yourself.

COVID-19 Community Level Cities Counties
High

Colonial Heights
Galax
Lexington
Richmond City
Augusta
Charlotte
Chesterfield
Halifax
Henrico
Lunenburg
Mecklenburg
Prince Edward
Medium

Alexandria
Buena Vista
Charlottesville
Covington
Emporia
Falls Church
Fredericksburg
Hampton
Hopewell
Manassas
Manassas Park
Martinsville
Newport News
Norton
Radford
Roanoke
Salem
Staunton
Suffolk
Virginia Beach
Waynesboro
Albemarle
Amelia
Arlington
Bath
Bland
Buchanan
Buckingham
Carroll
Charles City County
Clarke
Craig
Cumberland
Essex
Fairfax County
Fluvanna
Giles
Goochland
Grayson
Hanover
Henry
Highland
James City County
King George
King William
King and Queen
Lancaster
Loudon
Middlesex
New Kent
Northumberland
Nottoway
Pittsylvania
Powhatan
Prince William
Richmond County
Rockbridge
Spotsylvania
Stafford
Tazewell
Westmoreland
York
Low

Bristol
Chesapeake
Danville
Fairfax City
Franklin City
Harrisonburg
Lynchburg
Norfolk
Petersburg
Portsmouth
Williamsburg
Winchester
Accomack
Alleghany
Amherst
Appomattox
Bedford
Botetourt
Brunswick
Campbell
Caroline
Culpeper
Dickenson
Dinwiddie
Fauquier
Floyd
Franklin County
Frederick
Gloucester
Greene
Greensville
Isle of Wight
Lee
Louisa
Madison
Mathews
Montgomery
Nelson
Northampton
Orange
Page
Patrick
Prince George
Pulaski
Rappahannock
Rockingham
Russell
Scott
Shenandoah
Surry
Sussex
Warren
Washington
Wise
Wythe

Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia/faq/

More Updates: https://www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/

Virginia Department of Health Coronavirus Hotline: 1-877-275-8343 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

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Virginia Workers’ Compensation (VWC) Commission

VWC Commission Operations During COVID-19 Effective 5/31/22

  1. Mask requirements are subject to change based on the COVID-19 status Community Level. If the level is classified as high, masks shall be required.
  2. Due to current COVID-19 status Community Levels, masks are required inside the Commission’s Richmond Headquarters Office, regardless of vaccination status, for VWC employees or visitors.
  3. Masking is no longer required at the Commission’s Roanoke Regional Office.
  4. Masks are available upon entry to all VWC facilities.
  5. Social distancing is no longer needed if vaccinated (unless masking requirements are in place as indicated above in current mask required locations) but strongly encouraged.

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VWC Commission Evidentiary Hearings

Form of Hearing: 

It shall remain in the sole discretion of the Deputy Commissioner to determine the form of hearing for any case pending adjudication on that Deputy Commissioner’s docket, whether it be video, in-person or a hybrid of the two. Consent of the parties is not required for any particular form of hearing. On-the-record proceedings remain available and are encouraged as an alternative to an in-person or video hearing in cases where the parties are able to stipulate to the facts necessary for the dispute to be adjudicated.

Objections to Form of Hearing: 

Any objection to the form of hearing scheduled by the Deputy Commissioner in any particular case must be filed with the Commission, and copied to parties who do not have access to WebFile, within seven (7) calendar days of the issuance of the hearing notice for that case. Specific reasons for the objection must be provided before a ruling will be made on the objection.

Mask Requirements: 

Mask requirements for Commission offices and courtrooms shall vary depending on the COVID-19 Community Level where the office is located, as determined from time to time by the CDC and VDH. Masks shall be required for all persons regardless of vaccination status in Commission offices and courtrooms located in areas where the COVID-19 Community Level is classified as high. Within a courtroom located in an area where the COVID-19 Community Level has been classified as high, the presiding Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner may authorize persons to remove their face masks to facilitate a proceeding. Hearings conducted in facilities other than the Commission’s offices shall be further subject to the requirements and restrictions of those facilities.

Read the full 4/14/22 Revised Order Regarding Evidentiary Hearings During the COVID-19 Pandemic: https://www.workcomp.virginia.gov/news/Commission-Issues-Order-Regarding-Updated-Requirements-for-COVID-19

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VWC Commission Full and Final Settlement Mediations

The VWC Commission is currently experiencing limited mediator availability statewide as they focus on conducting hearings that were postponed from the Spring due to COVID-19. The VWC Commission Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Department is currently working with a waiting list, and is encouraging Mediation by telephone or WebEx video conference. The ADR Department is still available for calls at 804-205-3139. In-Person Mediation is limited and not guaranteed. In-Person Mediations must comply with the 4/14/22 Order.

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