Live, in-person Social Security Disability claims hearings will start up again in the spring, the Social Security Administration (SSA) says. For the past two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hearings have only been held remotely, either by phone or video. The in-person hearings could resume as early as May 4, after the SSA reached an agreement with the union representing Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). The judges have held hundreds of thousands of virtual hearings since the start of the pandemic.
Judges may voluntarily schedule in-person hearings starting in May, and all judges are set to return to their offices beginning June 3. Hearings may continue to be a mix of in-person and virtual proceedings for the foreseeable future. The SSA says claimants who prefer an in-person hearing will be given that opportunity. However, a claimant may still request a virtual hearing if they have an underlying medical condition that puts them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, or may otherwise feel uncomfortable with travel or appearing in-person before a judge. At Nash Disability Law, we look forward to meeting with our clients in person again and representing them at in-person hearings.
Additionally, the SSA plans to reopen its more than 1,200 field offices starting March 30. Last month, an agreement was reached with the unions representing workers for the agency. However, the date could still change since negotiations are ongoing, and the situation with the pandemic continues to evolve. Since March 2020, SSA field offices have been mostly closed to the public, or open by appointment for “dire needs” only, since March 2020.