Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Social Security Administration is currently holding all Social Security Disability hearings by telephone only. The Social Security Administration has not yet announced an end date in which hearings will return to either in person hearings or video hearings. Therefore, if you choose to proceed with your hearing by telephone, you should be prepared and note the following:
1. Timing. While your hearing has a specific scheduled time, be prepared to start your hearing a little early or late. I recommend being ready to go and having your phone by you at least 10-15 minutes prior to your scheduled time. Additionally, do not be alarmed if your hearing time is delayed. Judges often have other hearings prior to your hearing and that sometimes causes the judges to run behind schedule. Overall, block out a section of time in the day and be flexible.
2. Location. It is essential you are alone and in a quiet room during your phone hearing. Because hearings included both confidential individual and medical information, it is essential you are not in a public place or around other people (even family members). Judges will often inquire in the beginning of the hearing if you are alone. Therefore, I recommend setting out a specific room in your residence where it is quiet, and where you are away from any family, friends, or roommates.
3. Connection. It is important to make sure your phone is charged and that you have adequate service. If connection is lost in the middle of the hearing, wait until the court calls you back.
4. Communication. It is crucial you speak up and talk clearly while testifying. The court is recording the hearing through the phone so talking clearly and at an adequate volume helps the court get the best recording. Also, if at any time you are unable to hearing the judge, your attorney, or the vocational expert speak up! While it is important you speak clearly, it is also essential you understand the questions being asked of you!
While these tips and tricks will help you know what is expected at the phone hearing, it is also important to work with your attorney prior to the phone hearing regarding the specifics of your individual case.