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Phone Hearings in the Wake of Covid-19: What you Need to Know

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has finally issued some guidance for what will happen with scheduled Social Security Disability hearings considering the current pandemic. More specifically, SSA explained that beginning March 17, 2020 all hearings will NO longer be held in person. Some offices are just cancelling upcoming hearings. Therefore, it is important you understand what your local Social Security Office’s plans are with upcoming hearings. If your local office is moving forward with scheduled hearings, claimants are now generally given 2 options on how they may proceed with their claim: 1) have their hearing held by telephone or 2) have their hearing rescheduled until it can be held in person. Its important to note that while a phone hearing may not sound ideal to some, rescheduling a hearing may cause significant delay. While SSA does not give a specific delay time if an individual chooses to reschedule their hearing, the wait time for an in person hearing can range anywhere from 3 months to a year. Thus, it is important to understand the implications if you wish to reschedule your hearing. If you are represented, speak with your attorney about your options. They will have insight as to what is best for your specific case. If you choose to proceed by telephone, there are some critical things you must be aware of. First, having updated representation forms signed and submitted is extremely important. The judge needs these forms in order to conduct your hearing and know you are consenting to the specific attorney (on the phone) to represent you. Second, be patient with the phone hearing process. Connection problems can happen, and hearings can start early or late. Make sure you carve out a significant time slot to be available for your hearing. Third, if at any time during the hearing you cannot hearing the judge or your attorney it is vital you make that known. It is important you hear all questions posed to you and understand what is going on. Overall, speaking with your attorney in detail prior to your hearing will prepare you for these issues.

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