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Due to COVID-19, many local courts are conducting hearings remotely via telephone. A telephone hearing is no different than an in-person hearing, as both follow the same procedures. The only difference between a telephone hearing and an in-person hearing is that there is no face-to-face interaction. Like any other Social Security disability hearing, the judge will ask questions, take account of statements or testimonies made by you or other parties, and make a decision based on the evidence.
It is imperative that you or your attorney provide a phone number and appear on time, as failure to do so may result in the cancellation of your hearing. A telephone hearing notice will be provided to give direction on how the conference will be initiated.
The hearing notice will provide instructions on whether you will be required to call the court or if they will reach out to you. A telephone hearing notice will also explain how to submit evidence. If the court is required to contact you, and you did not receive a call within the first 10 minutes of the scheduled hearing, contact the hearing office or your attorney as soon as possible.
Preparing for a telephone hearing is extremely important, because there are many factors that can significantly impact your case and modify the Administrative Law Judge’s opinion. First things first, be on time – the earlier the better. It is advisable to be near or on your phone 10 minutes before the hearing just in case.
Whether you must call and connect to the telephone hearing line or the judge will call you depends on your local court rules and procedures. If the judge calls you and you don’t answer, they will either make a decision based on the relevant facts and information already available or dismiss your case altogether. A dismissed case can only be rescheduled if there is a “good cause” for postponing it (i.e. an unforeseeable event which prevents a claimant from appearing on a prearranged date).
When communicating through the phone, make sure there is good reception so you can clearly articulate the facts of your case. It may be better to use a headset or earphones with a built-in microphone to keep your hands free to write notes or jot down questions to ask later. Familiarize yourself with the mute and unmute buttons to minimize background noise. If there is not a mute option available on your phone, you can press *6 to mute and *6 again to unmute when you are ready to speak.
Turn off TVs, radios, and phone notifications. If possible, enable the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your phone so it will not ring during the hearing. It is also recommended to be in a distraction-free area with your phone fully charged so you won’t have to put the court on hold. To prevent being disconnected, make sure your phone has plenty of minutes available (at least 90). Lastly, do not make any recordings without permission, doing so may result in the court sanctioning you.
If you do not have access to a phone, contact the court staff or your attorney as soon as possible via whatever means are available to you. They may be able to reschedule your hearing or make other accommodations such as giving you the opportunity to access a free phone or free hotspots. For more information on how to navigate telephone hearings, fill out our online contact form so we can promptly get back to you.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law