Disability Hearings By Telephone During COVID-19 Pandemic
In response to COVID-19, the Social Security Administration provides telephonic disability hearing options. Those who have their initial applications for disability benefits denied may appeal the decision before an administrative law judge at a formal hearing. Safety concerns amidst the coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of SSA and hearing offices. While the agency cannot conduct in-person hearings, telephone hearings offer Social Security the ability to continue processing claims pending due to disputed disability decisions.
Agreeing to a Telephonic Disability Hearing
Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income claimants disputing initial disability determinations may choose to pursue their claims through a telephonic hearing. Rather than appearing before administrative law judges, claimants who agree to such hearings discuss the details of their disability claims during a phone call. Although not appearing in-person, participants such as the claimants, their representatives, an administrative law judge, a hearing reporter and expert witnesses may still participate in such calls.
Choosing an Alternative Hearing Format
Some claimants pursuing SSA disability benefits may not feel comfortable conducting their appeal hearings over the phone. Instead of telephonic disability hearings, Social Security may allow people to request online video hearings or to postpone their hearings until a safe, in-person option becomes available.
Preparing for a Disability Hearing by Phone
Getting ready for a telephonic disability hearing does not differ much from preparing for an in-person hearing. The administrative law judges overseeing such hearings will listen to claimants’ testimony and, in some cases, may ask them questions about what they have said or other details of their benefits applications. Therefore, it may benefit people as they prepare for disability hearings over the phone to review the documentation and information they provided with their initial claims and as part of their appeals.
On the day of their hearings, disability benefit claimants should make themselves available to answer the phone and ensure they have a quiet place to take the call where they may avoid distractions and protect their privacy. When not speaking, the SSA recommends people mute their phones to help minimize any background noise. Further, Social Security advises people to conduct such hearings via traditional landlines for optimal sound quality and connection if possible. Those who must use cell phones for their disability hearings should make sure their batteries have enough charge to hold a conversation for a minimum of 90 minutes.