At Omega, we try to make ourselves available to people through various types of media. One of these is Avvo.com. Resources like these are great for asking quick questions or figuring out if you need an attorney to answer a more complex one. These sites also allow us as practitioners to reach people by answering questions. I recently answered a question on Avvo from an individual who had not received a key piece of mail from the Social Security Administration which subsequently caused him serious issues with his benefits.
This raised an issue that attorney advocates and claimants encounter on a frequent basis: the mail.
As individuals, people have almost certainly heard of one thing or another being lost in the mail. However, because they are sending less and less mail through the Post Office these days, losing things in the mail is an occurrence that rarely, if ever, happens. Generally, if we mail something it gets to where it is going reminding us that there is a minimal chance that anything could ever be lost in the mail.
But, if you happen to be sending thousands of pieces of mail per month and millions of pieces of mail per year like the Social Security Administration things will be lost on a regular basis. The question, then, becomes what can a claimant do about lost mail from SSA?
Fortunately, the answer is not the usual lawyerly “it depends.”
The answer is to be diligent and to stay involved with your claim, or if you have already been awarded benefits, to stay in contact with the Administration. For example, the question I answered on Avvo was from an individual already awarded benefits. Aside from receiving his monthly checks this person went about his business like normal with no contact to or from the agency until he received a letter in the mail stating that his benefits were going to be suspended since he was “not cooperating” with SSA. Of course, he would have cooperated if he knew he had to. The lesson to be learned here is that checking in with a field office at least quarterly can help prevent these circumstances.
There are simple reasons why that is. First off, a claimant can tell the field office staff that they have not received any mail from the Administration in a while and ask the office if any has been sent. If some has, since you are entitled to a copy of everything in your file, you can request that SSA re-send anything you missed. Moreover, checking in quarterly puts you in relatively good stead as far as collecting any mail you missed as many SSA deadlines for submitting documents or performing other activities are going to be 30, 60, or 90 days from the date of mailing. So, as long as you are checking in regularly you should be able to collect any missed documents prior to the deadline running out. You also may be able to correct any issues before anyone at SSA realizes that there is an issue.
This also solves the problem of good cause should you happen to miss one of these deadlines. Generally, SSA will keep a log of every time you call into them. If you have a pattern of checking on your claim to show them, if you miss a deadline because something was lost in the mail you will be far more credible and are much more likely to be granted good cause for a missed deadline than simply saying, “I didn’t get it.”
There are other ways to be diligent in ensuring that mail is received as well. Remember, that the loss of mail goes both ways, so things you send to SSA can also be lost. Here are a few more tips that should help no matter which way the mail is going:
- Never send SSA originals of any of your own documents if you can at all possibly avoid it
- Only send Social Security’s own forms back to them as originals(they require “wet” signatures on some documents), but keep a copy for yourself
- If you are going to provide an address to Social Security because you only have a temporary living situation, provide one where a friend, relative, or other responsible person lives that can contact you if you receive mail
- If you are sending something very important send it with a return receipt even though that costs a little bit more
- If you have the ability to, and even if SSA only wants a wet signature, fax a copy of the document you are mailing to the office that requested the mailing
- If you feel like you are regularly missing mail from SSA, call them and change your address
- If you move, forward the mail from your old address via the Post Office and call the Administration to change your address
- If the agency asks you for something, try to send it back within the time period they gave you
- Even if you would leave a form mostly blank send it back to SSA
- Do not expect that your attorney will complete documents asking for information from the claimant, you, without any input from you
- Do not ever rely on SSA to do anything to ensure that you received mail they sent you
- Do not ever assume that they will tell you that they did not receive something you sent before it that is causing a problem. If you mail something, wait a week, and then call them.
Ultimately, the mail might be the biggest cause of unnecessary problems for Social Security Disability claimants. Staying involved in your claim is the best way to do this. Of course, it also helps to have a good attorney, so contact us today!