At least once a month or so, a client will ask me if for, whatever reason, they can do their disability hearing over the phone.
And I’ve always said that we can request it if they really want, but the judge is very likely to deny it.
Then the novel coronavirus hit the U.S. in mid-March. And since then Social Security has decided that all hearings are to be held by telephone.
How long this will last, no one knows. I’ve been advising clients that if they want an in-person hearing, it’s probably going to take 6-12 months for it to be rescheduled.
So should you consent to a phone hearing?
Well, every case is different and there are certainly some I would advise holding off for an in-person hearing, either because I believe it will help the client to be seen by a judge, or it seems like a judge would look more positively on a case if they can see the claimant in front of them.
But generally, phone hearings seem to be working fairly well for the majority of cases. Still, there are a few things you can do to ensure your phone hearing goes as smoothly as possible:
- Make sure your attorney and Social Security have the best number to reach you at. If you don’t have a reliable phone, see if you can use a friend’s or family member’s for the hearing.
- Be near your phone at least 15 minutes before your start time, and don’t be surprised if the call doesn’t come until 30, even 60 minutes after it’s scheduled.
- Make sure that you’re by yourself in an area with no distractions.
- If you’re going to use a cell phone, go to an area where you have good reception.
Finally, be prepared for the unexpected! Even keeping all of these things in mind, calls drop or Social Security may be unable to record the hearing, so delays can happen. Worst case, another phone hearing might even have to be scheduled.