A year ago, in March 2020, Social Security closed all of its hearing offices due to concerns about spreading the Coronavirus. This put a hold on all in-person disability hearings, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) did offer the option of telephone hearings.
Late last summer, the SSA announced that it was developing procedures to offer an additional option of online video hearings (as we reported in this newsletter). Now, the SSA says that its systems are ready and you can choose to have your case heard via a telephone hearing or a video hearing. The SSA says that their video hearings are “safe and secure” using Microsoft Teams, a free software platform. You—along with us as your attorneys—can attend your hearing from your home, our office, or any private place using a camera-enabled device.
During the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will swear in all hearing participants and listen to your testimony. Other participants, such as vocational/medical experts and interpreters, may join the proceedings by phone.
The technical requirements, Social Security says, are that “you must have access to email and a personal computer, laptop, or Android/Apple tablet or mobile device with a secure and private, high-speed Wi-Fi or cellular data connection. The device must have a camera, microphone, and speakers. If using a mobile device, you must download the free Microsoft Teams application.”
Under normal circumstances, we prefer in-person hearings. However, as we all have come to realize, life under COVID-19 is far from “normal.” While a claimant can opt out of both video and phone hearings, your claim will be frozen for what could be a long time. Therefore, it is our recommendation to proceed with a video hearing if you have the ability to do so. Although video hearings are far from ideal, they are a far better choice than telephone hearings, and they are preferable to months of struggling financially while waiting for live hearings to return. At Nash Disability Law, our attorneys can prepare you for your hearing using video technology such as Zoom or other means.
If you have questions about filing for Social Security disability benefits, we encourage you to call or email our office for a free consultation regarding your specific situation.