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Because of the nature of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all Social Security hearing offices have been closed since March 2020. Despite in-person services being temporarily closed, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is still holding hearings over the phone or via an online video platform called Microsoft Teams. To help you prepare for a remote Social Security hearing, we have provided some helpful insights into the SSA’s current options.
After you submit a Request for Hearing (HA-501) form, the SSA will send you a letter to acknowledge your request and provide information about your options for a remote hearing. While it is not mandatory to attend an administrative hearing remotely, many Social Security applicants choose the telephone hearing option.
For a telephone hearing, you will need either a landline or a cellphone. A landline phone is recommended by the SSA for better connection and sound quality. If you use a cellphone, make sure it is fully charged and has good reception. It is also crucial to take steps to prevent unnecessary interruptions.
That could mean placing your phone on silent so that if another call comes through, it won’t disrupt your hearing. It also means turning off any nearby devices that produce sound (i.e., TV, radio, etc.) It is your responsibility to ensure that your environment is appropriately prepared for a formal administrative hearing.
Otherwise, telephone hearings are conducted the same way as in-person hearings. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will swear in all participants, deliver the oath, listen to your testimony, and ask any necessary questions. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions during the hearing. If you do not want to have your hearing via telephone or other remote means, you can ask to postpone your hearing until the SSA can provide another option.
Online video conferences provided by Microsoft Teams are a free and secure way to conduct SSA hearings over the internet. These hearings are convenient because they allow you to attend from anywhere using a smartphone, tablet, computer, or any other device that has speakers, a microphone, camera, and internet connection.
If you would like to attend your hearing via video conference, you can call or write to your local Social Security office and request to schedule one. Just like telephone hearings, you are not required to participate in a video hearing. If you decide that a video hearing is not for you, you can call your local SSA hearing office to notify them that you would like to schedule a telephone hearing instead or postpone your hearing until offices reopen.
If you do agree to an online video hearing, you will receive an invitation email with instructions and a link to download the Microsoft Teams application. Make sure that you download and test Microsoft Teams before your hearing to ensure that everything goes smoothly. The SSA has more information available online about setting up Microsoft Teams and preparing for an online video hearing.
The day of your hearing, you will receive an email reminder with the link to your hearing. Before your online video hearing begins, you should make sure your device is connected to a power source and has a wired or wireless internet connection. The ALJ will conduct your hearing the same way they would conduct a telephone or in-person hearing. If you are having technical issues during your hearing, let the ALJ know. If the ALJ is unable to continue your hearing, it may be rescheduled.
Your privacy is always a priority in Social Security hearings. During online video hearings, employees connect using the SSA’s secure network from a private room. It is encouraged that you also participate from a private room to protect your privacy.
If you or a loved one are navigating a Social Security claim, you don’t have to do it alone. An experienced attorney at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, can help you through the process. Reach out to our firm today to learn more about preparing for remote Social Security hearings.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law