Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Attorneys at Law

April 2020 Archives

THE VA HAS BEGUN IMPLEMENTING THE "CARES" ACT PROVISIONS

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Following the signing, the Department of Veterans' Affairs began using its share of the funding to care for Veterans and strengthen its response to the pandemic.

VA and Facebook Partnering to Help Veterans Stay Connected During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Facebook recently announced a new partnership aimed at helping Veterans stay connected to family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership will provide 7,400 Facebook Portals (a Facebook videoconferencing device that typically costs $129) to Veterans and their caregivers or family members. In order to fully utilize the Facebook Portal, the users must have a Facebook account and will be able to video chat with any of their Facebook friends or friends with a WhatsApp account. For Veterans to be eligible to apply for a Facebook Portal, they must be enrolled in a caregiver program or a geriatric and extended care program. Those Veterans that are approved for the Facebook Portal will receive two devices, one for the Veteran and one for a caregiver or family member. VA hopes that the distribution of the Facebook Portals will help Veterans stay connected to their support systems and stem suicides in the Veterans' community.

IS COVID-19 AFFECTING VA DISABILITY CLAIMS?

Veterans have many questions regarding their disability claims and how the VA is currently handling claims amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dr. Paul Lawrence, Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary, approximately 90% of the VA is enabled to telework (nearly 23,000 workers), which means that claims should continue to be processed as usual. However, all the VA disability offices are closed to the public at this time. Claims can still be filed online through VA.gov or by calling 1-800-827-1000.

SOCIAL SECURITY PHONE SCAM

Social Security phone scams are widespread around the USA. The newest round of scams shows that telephone scammers may send fake emails to convince victims that to give them what they want. These emails may contain letters that appear to be on official SSA letterhead. These scammers claim that there is identify theft or some problems with a person's Social Security number (SSN). They will threaten legal action or sometimes claim they can increase your retirement or disability benefits or resolve your identity theft. They will often demand money in the form of a retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, pre-paid debit card, or internet currency (e.g. Bitcoin).

IS COVID-19 AFFECTING SOCIAL SECURITY HEARINGS?

The Office of Hearing Operations closed its doors to the public almost two weeks ago and began offering some telephonic hearings depending on the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). At first the ALJs could not conduct hearings from home telephonically, but have been working with IT on that solution. Our office held conversations with the local hearing office which stated that they tested the phone for home hearings last week. In office staff at the hearing offices are limited.

IS COVID-19 AFFECTING SOCIAL SECURITY??

Per the National Association of Disability Representatives, SSA organized a conference last week regarding steps they are taking due to COVID-19. All district offices are continuing to take and adjudicate claims by phone, online and via mail. SSA is supposed to be prioritizing dire need claims and suspending policies which would reduce or eliminate benefits during this pandemic.

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