Should Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants be allowed to sign documents electronically as part of the application process? This is the question at the center of a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Advocates for the disabled have long fought for the federal government to make electronic signatures a standard option in all federal application processes and all forms requiring signatures. They argue that requiring written signatures in pen (known as “wet” signatures) places an undue burden on the disabled — requiring them to potentially leave their homes or go through a laborious process of faxing, scanning or physically mailing documents that may be painful or impossible for them.
Many federal agencies have listened, and responded by changing their signature policy. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Medicare, for example, both now allow electronic signatures. But so far, the SSA has resisted, and only allows electronic signatures in certain cases. Anyone applying for SSDI with the help of a representative such as an attorney must still sign all documents and forms physically.
The lawsuit, filed in May 2020, seeks to change that. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include a non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient named Timothy Cole, who is immuno-compromised as a result of his treatment and thus at higher risk of contracting and falling ill from COVID-19. The lawsuit argues that the SSA’s policy of requiring “wet” signatures has always been discriminatory against the disabled, but during the COVID-19 pandemic it is now also forcing disabled people to put themselves in severe, potentially life-threatening danger. The SSA has even acknowledged the danger, as it now has a mail quarantine policy and has shut down many field offices.
Other plaintiffs include the National Federation of the Blind, which is seeking to give blind people the right to sign their forms and documents electronically. The plaintiffs argue that there is no justification for this continued SSA policy, as the agency has both the right and the capability to end the “wet” signature standard.
An Undue Burden
The current SSA “wet” signature policy is hard to defend on any level. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to insist on a standard that can add so much difficulty to the process of applying Social Security Insurance benefits for the applicants, and makes the process so much less efficient on the agency side.
Even in the best of circumstances, if an SSDI applicant is unable to physically appear at a SSA field office, the process of mailing, scanning, and faxing forms back and forth can take days, weeks, or even months. All the while a disabled person is waiting to find out if they will receive the benefits they desperately need.
Ending the current signature standard would be a boon to all SSDI applicants, and would also allow the SSA to operate at a higher level of efficiency.
Get Help With Your SSDI Claim
Are you experiencing trouble with your SSDI claim, or have you had your application rejected? Or are you about to file an SSDI claim? The SSA signature policy is unfortunately not the only way an SSDI application can be derailed, and it may be in your best interest to get an SSDI attorney on your side.
A Morgan & Morgan SSDI attorney may be able to help you get the benefits you need. They can help walk you through the process from start to finish, helping you avoid any potential pitfalls and potentially significantly speeding things up. Even if your application has already been rejected, they can help guide you through the appeals process and give you a better chance of having your application accepted.
Best of all, you’ll never pay a dime unless our attorneys win for you, and the initial consultation is always free. So call today, and find out what we can do to help you get the disability benefits you need and deserve.