In March, people in Columbia began to realize that the Covid 19 virus was not just affecting people in foreign countries but would eventually make its way to those of us in the Midlands as well. At the Law Office of Nicholas G. Callas, P.A., our clients were curious as to how the pandemic would impact their worker’s compensation and social security disability cases.
Initially, the South Carolina Workers Compensation Commission (SCWCC) suspended operations but has now resumed live hearings. Today, these hearings are going forward with safeguards in place to protect claimants, attorneys and the Commission staff. For example, if you attend a hearing now each person in the room will be required to wear a mask. Additionally, you will need to contact the Commission upon arrival and be told when to enter the Commission office by the SCWCC staff.
The Covid 19/Corona virus also changed the Social Security Administration’s operations. Although a significant portion of their staff work from home, senior managers and staff are toiling away at the main offices in Columbia, Charleston and Greenville, South Carolina. Since March 2020, in-person hearings have been cancelled and replaced with telephonic hearings. For example, the Claimant, the Claimant’s attorney, vocational expert and presiding administrative law judge will be connected through a conference call and proceed with live testimony given over the phone. This practice allows Claimants to go forward with a hearing and prevents delay in the processing of their claims and benefits. If, however, Claimants wish to have an in-person hearing they can request that it be postponed until the in-person hearings resume. Thus far, none of my clients have opted for hearing postponement.
As for the practice of law, the pandemic had an immediate impact on my law firm, the Law Office of Nicholas G. Callas, P.A. Once Governor McMaster began talking about a shutdown, my paralegal and I prepared to work primarily from home. We scanned all files into a central database so each of us had access to all client files. We contacted our clients and let them know that we would be able to transact all business activities electronically via email or Zoom and that their cases would move on as before. Finally, the purchase of a couple of printers/scanners completed the transition.
While we all wait for a return to normalcy in our lives—the ability to go out in public without a mask and a return to the work place without restrictions to name a few—the Covid 19 virus doesn’t have to win. Through perseverance, our client’s cases are developed, settled or eventually heard at a hearing. Still, I can’t wait to get back to the way things were before.
If you have any questions about your rights under South Carolina workers compensation law or with your social security disability case, please call the Law Office of Nicholas G. Callas, P.A. at (803)369-3968. Our address is 1901 Gadsden Street, Suite B, Columbia, SC 29201.
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