People facing a reduction, suspension, or other change to their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) now have more time to file an appeal, in a concession by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to delays and difficulties wrought by the COVID-19 crisis.
The October 21 decision now allows 65 days from the date of notification — called a Notice of Planned Action or GK notice — for the SSA to receive an appeal. Previously the application window was just 15 days. Moreover, even people sending in an appeal after that 65-day period can have it processed if they can show good cause as to why they were late submitting it. When SSA receives such an appeal, it must continue paying benefits until the appeal is adjudicated, per a Supreme Court decision (Goldberg v. Kelly, hence “GK”) guaranteeing due process for benefit recipients under the Constitution.
The appeal period extension follows a class action lawsuit submitted in September by organizations representing people with disabilities, the elderly, and others, arguing that the closure of SSA’s field offices following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had made it difficult, if not impossible, for SSI recipients to appeal the reduction or suspension of their benefits.
“The revised procedures recognize the challenges that the COVID-19 national public health emergency has presented for the vulnerable SSI population,” the SSA said, in its Emergency Message to employees. “The ability of SSI recipients to file a request for reconsideration has been significantly affected by the closure of our field offices to the public and delays in mail delivery. These and other workload-related challenges have also affected our ability to efficiently and timely process a request for reconsideration and ensure that we protect a recipient’s constitutional due process right to GK payment continuation.”
A reduction or suspension of benefits is subject to a four-step process by SSA: initial determination; reconsideration; administrative law judge hearing; and appeals council.
SSA says it expects “that these challenges will continue to affect our ability timely [sic] process requests for GK payment continuation even after the end of the COVID-19 national public health emergency.” However, the extension to the appeal period is scheduled to end on April 29, 2022.