Possible Phishing Schemes

The Social Security Administration’s Acting Inspector General, Gale Stallworth Stone, is warning citizens about a nationwide telephone “imposter phishing” scheme. The Social Security Administration (SSA) and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have received several reports from citizens across the country about persons receiving phone calls from individuals posing as OIG investigators. The caller indicates an issue exists pertaining to the person’s Social Security account or Social Security number (SSN) and directs the person call a non-SSA telephone number to address the issue.

The reports indicate the calls include a recording from a caller stating she is “Nancy Jones,” an “officer with the Inspector General of Social Security.” The recording goes on to say the person’s Social Security account, SSN, and/or benefits are suspended, and that he or she should call 806-680-2373 to resolve the issue. Citizens should be aware that the scheme’s details may vary; however, citizens should avoid calling the number provided, as the unknown caller might attempt to acquire personal information.

OIG investigators occasionally contact citizens by telephone for investigative purposes, but they will not request sensitive personal information from a citizen over the phone. If a person receives a similar suspicious call from someone alleging to be from the OIG, citizens may report that information to the OIG at 1-800-269-0271 or online via https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

Acting Inspector General Stone said, “This phishing scheme is targeting unsuspecting persons for the purpose of Social Security benefit theft or identity theft.” She warns citizens to be cautious, and to avoid providing personal information such as your SSN or bank account numbers to unknown persons over the phone or internet unless you are certain of who is receiving it. “You must be very confident that the source is the correct business party, and that your information will be secure after you release it,” Stone said.

If a person has questions about any communication—email, letter, text or phone call—that claims to be from SSA or the OIG, please contact your local Social Security office, or call Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to verify its legitimacy. (Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.)

For more information, please contact Andrew Cannarsa, OIG’s Communications Director for the Social Security Administration, at (410) 965-2671. Also, feel free to call my office at (251)478-5297.

Please be safe and smart with your confidential information.

This information is shared with you to protect you by Byron A. Lassiter & Associates, P.C., a Mobile and southwest Alabama social security disability lawyer.

How Long Does it Take for Me to Receive My Social Security Disability Benefits?

Time is moneyAfter a person applies for either social Security Disability, or Supplemental Security income, or both, and the initial claim is denied by the Social Security Administration, a person has a right to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.  The person has sixty days to file the appeal, requesting that hearing.  Hearings for social security disability cases in southwest Alabama and Northwest Florida are handled by the Mobile, Alabama Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).  The Mobile, Alabama ODAR hearing office offers individuals the option to either have a video hearing, or to have a live, in-person hearing.  I believe that people have a much greater chance of success with an in-person hearing, because it is more difficult to convey pain, depression and anxiety over a video.  I recommend that our clients appear in person whenever possible.

The Mobile, Alabama hearing office is staffed with 14 judges.  Even though that is a lot of judges, there are a lot of cases for those judges to hear.  The average wait time of the Mobile, Alabama ODAR is 13 months.  That is, it takes about one year, and one month, between the time the hearing is requested and the time the hearing is held.  Since that is a very long wait, it is important to make the very best use of the hearing time.  The Birmingham, Alabama ODAR, by comparison, has more judges, 19, has an even larger backlog of cases, and the Birmingham ODAR has an average wait time of 14 months.  Because of the long delay our clients face, our office believes that it is very important for the case to be well prepared for presentation; our team works very hard to make sure that by the time of the hearing the evidence available has been located and submitted to ODAR.  The files are in an electronic format- that is, all documents must be scanned and electronically submitted to become a part of the evidence considered by the judge.

After the hearing, several things may occur.  The judge may decide that additional consultative examinations are needed.  In that event, the Social Security Administration pays for any additional medical and/or psychological examinations that are requested by the judge.  When those reports come in, the judge can arrange for another hearing, or make a decision based upon the additional medical evidence.  On average, at the Mobile hearing office, the time between the request for hearing and the time of the final decision is 449 days.  That is, the average processing time is about 15 months.  It is generally taking about two months after the hearing, on average, to get the judge’s final decision.  Since that time is only the average, some cases are faster, but some cases are slower.

The better prepared the case, the better the chance that no additional development after the hearing will be necessary, thus making the processing time faster.  At our office, we are all very aware of the importance of being prepared.  We recognize that our clients depend upon us to anticipate the specific evidence a judge will want to see in a case, and we take steps to make sure the additional evidence is obtained, to better speed up the process.