In response to the current coronavirus pandemic, the Social Security Administration has been forced to modify how it handles disability claims pending at the hearing level.
In response to the numerous shelter-in-place/stay at home orders and social distancing regulations implemented throughout the United States, all Social Security offices and hearing offices have been closed to the public. As a result, in-person disability hearings are no longer possible.
Instead, the Social Security Administration has provided three (3) options for claimants with scheduled hearing dates. First, claimants can elect to postpone their hearing and wait for it to be rescheduled at a later date once all coronavirus and social distancing restrictions have been lifted or relaxed. Second, claimants can elect to have a telephone hearing on the same date/time as their originally-scheduled hearing. All hearing participants (e.g., Administrative Law Judge [“ALJ”], attorney, claimant, and vocational/medical experts) would participate in the hearing over the telephone from their home. Third, claimants can elect to have a video hearing at an attorney’s office but this option is only available to attorneys with certified video locations (which most attorneys do not have).
Regarding whether to elect to have a telephone hearing, most attorneys are of the belief that telephone hearings are not beneficial since the ALJ cannot physically see the claimant (which is especially important in cases where claimants have physical impairments which the ALJ can directly see). However, faced with the decision to opt for a telephone hearing where the chances of receiving a favorable ruling potentially decrease or postponing the hearing and waiting an unpredictable amount of time to get an in-person or video hearing rescheduled, sometimes to need to participate in a telephone hearing increases.
To determine which option makes the most sense for each claimant, an attorney needs to take numerous factors into consideration (e.g., the assigned ALJ, the nature of the alleged conditions [physical vs. mental impairments], the relative strength of the claim, the financial circumstances of the claimant, etc.). However, it is ultimately the claimant’s right to decide whether to opt for a telephone hearing or request a postponement.
At Henson Fuerst, we suggest that you consult with an attorney to determine which option makes the most sense when considering your particular circumstances. Our offices in Raleigh and Rocky Mount remain open for telephone or internet inquiries only but our attorneys are always available to answer any questions you may have, especially regarding the current coronavirus pandemic. Call us today at 919-781-1107 or submit a free consultation form online to discuss your case.