The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced last night that effective today, all field and hearing offices are closed to the public due to the ongoing public health crisis related to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. If you are already awarded benefits, this will not affect your ongoing payments. If you have a hearing scheduled, however, you can expect a call soon to request that you either agree to moving forward via telephonic hearing or to continue the matter to a later date. While SSA will remain open to conducting business online and on a limited basis via telephone, it is not yet clear at what capacity they will be processing information.
The Social Security Administration and the Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) that decide cases at the hearing level frequently use a grid of the Medical-Vocational Rules to determine if a claimant is disabled or not. If the “grid rules” indicate a finding of disabled, then it is referred to as “gridding out” and the analysis essentially stops in the claimant’s favor. On the other hand, if the grids indicate a finding of not-disabled, it is still possible that you can be found disabled if your functional capacity is further eroded by other limitations and restrictions that prevent you from working. It is noteworthy to point out that the grid rules are primarily a Step 5 tool. For instance, if DDS or the ALJ find you are capable of light-duty work, but if your past relevant work (PRW) includes light-duty work then you will be denied at Step 4 of the analysis regardless whether the grid rules would otherwise dictate a finding of disabled.