Disability claimants get reprieve from potential coronavirus exposure, but could face longer wait

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(WIVB)–Workers applying for Social Security disability benefits have been concerned about a requirement that could possibly expose them to the coronavirus, or other contagious illnesses.

The Social Security Administration’s application procedure requires claimants to be evaluated by medical professionals at Industrial Medicine Associates on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo, which is under contract with SSA to conduct medical examinations and psychological evaluations.

There was concern, due to conditions in the office that claimants entering IMA’s facility could be unable to maintain proper social distancing or exposure to the infection.

But it now appears some claimants can bypass the visit to the Industrial Medicine Associates office in North Buffalo. According to an attorney who represents disability claimants, the office was closed for evaluations as of Tuesday.

Attorney Richard Abbott of the Kenmore law firm Pusatier, Sherman, Abbott and Sugarman LLC said his office was notified by IMA, “due to a shortage of doctors, they are canceling their appointments.”

A spokesman for Social Security confirmed the examinations conducted by IMA are on hold, but for some claimants, it might mean a longer wait.

In a statement issued by Social Security Administration Acting Press Officer Mark Hinkle, “We are not requiring applicants to appear in-person for consultative examinations during the national COVID 19 pandemic.”

Hinkle went further in his statement pointing out the role of State Disability Determination Services (DDS) which follow state executive orders on social distancing.

“We have instructed the DDSs to hold any case where the consultative exam, necessary for a disability decision, is canceled and to reschedule it once the COVID 19 pandemic subsides.”

So those claimants who need “consultative examinations” might have to wait even longer until the coronavirus emergency is over.

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