Since 1998, clear guidance has been provided by the Social Security Administration. In-person disability hearings are strongly preferred. Unfortunately, in-person disability hearings can’t always happen due to extraordinary circumstances. Extraordinary circumstances include “…incarceration, institutionalization, natural disasters, or very unusual circumstances directly related to a beneficiary or recipient’s impairments.”
On March 17, 2020, Social Security disability hearing offices closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the latest update from the Social Security Administration, hearing offices will remain closed for the foreseeable future. If your Social Security disability application has been denied and you are seeking a hearing to determine your Social Security disability eligibility, then you deserve to know what your hearing options are now.
Social Security Disability Telephone Hearings—Schedule Now
The Social Security Administration is currently scheduling disability hearings by telephone. Telephone hearings must follow the same format as in-person hearings.
After you submit a Request for Hearing form, you will receive a packet of information from the Social Security Administration. This packet will include information about telephone hearings. You will be asked to confirm a telephone hearing, or you may elect to wait until video teleconferencing begins or in-person hearings resume.
If you decide to go forward with a telephone hearing, then you have the right to:
- Be represented by a Social Security disability lawyer
- Review the record before the hearing
- Present additional evidence at the hearing
- Request assistance in obtaining additional evidence
- Present witnesses at the hearing
- Question witnesses at the hearing
On the day of your telephone hearing, you need to be available to answer your phone. A hearing office staff member will call you shortly before your hearing time.
The following people are likely to be on the call with you:
- Your lawyer or representative
- The Administrative Law Judge
- The hearing reporter who will record the hearing
- A vocational expert
- A medical expert
- An interpreter, if necessary
Once everyone is on the call, the Administrative Law Judge will swear in all hearing participants, listen to testimony, and ask questions. You can also ask questions.
The Social Security Administration recommends using a landline telephone or a charged cell phone with good reception during a telephone hearing.
Social Security Disability Videoconferencing Hearings—Coming Soon
In September 2020, the Social Security Administration announced plans to begin videoconference hearing sometime during fall 2020. Videoconference hearings will be held on a free platform called Microsoft (MS) Teams.
You can elect to have a videoconference disability hearing if you can take the conference from somewhere with a stable internet connection and on a cell phone, tablet, or computer that has a camera. You will see yourself, your lawyer, and the Administrative Law Judge on your screen. Other participants, such as vocational or medical experts, may appear by phone only. You will still be able to hear and question other participants, even if you can’t see them.
Social Security disability cases that are most critical and have been pending the longest will be given priority for available videoconferencing hearings.
Social Security Disability In-Person Hearings—No Time Estimate
Currently, the Social Security Administration is not giving an estimate of when in-person disability hearings will resume. The agency is only saying that the offices are closed for the “foreseeable future.” While telephone or videoconference disability hearings are not mandatory, the Social Security Administration encourages you to think about them if you need an answer on your disability claim.
Our Experienced Social Security Lawyers Can Help You With Any Type of Hearing
Telephone or videoconference hearings may be new for you. You may be unsure about whether you should go forward now or wait until in-person hearings resume.
Our New England Social Security disability lawyers understand your concerns. If your Social Security disability application is denied, then we want to discuss your legal options with you so that you can resolve your disability dispute as quickly and efficiently as possible.
There are advantages to telephone and videoconference hearings. Most importantly, your claim may be resolved more quickly so that you can begin receiving benefits. Additionally, you may have your hearing from the comfort of your home without having to travel or endure the discomfort of an in-person hearing.
Call us or complete our contact form to have us contact you for a free, no-obligation consultation about your next steps.