Since cases of Covid-19 started to increase in the United States in March, Social Security has been holding all disability hearings over the telephone.
And despite some technical and scheduling hiccups, this has worked out fairly well for claimants, attorneys, and judges.
In early September, Social Security sent out a notice that the agency intends to give claimants the option to appear by video for their disability hearings.
At this time, we don’t really know how this would work. Apparently, Social Security intends to use the Microsoft Teams platform, which can be accessed via computer, tablet, or smartphone. The claimant and the judge would appear by video, and the attorney almost certainly would as well. It sounds as if vocational and medical experts would still have the option to appear by telephone.
It’s currently unclear when exactly Social Security may begin offering video hearings, or what sort of login information would be required to access a hearing by video.
While I understand that many clients would like to at least by seen by a judge at their hearing, I’m cautious about recommending a video hearing.
The biggest obstacle is just going to be technical. It’s no problem to pick up a phone when Social Security calls. The addition of video could present a wrinkle that leads to lengthy delays, and possibly even postponing hearings.
Already, I’ve had a couple telephone hearings postponed because we couldn’t get Social Security’s recording system to work. At the very least, I would recommend waiting a few months for Social Security to iron out the problems with video hearings before requesting one.
In the meantime, another option is to request a postponement for an in-person hearing. Social Security has to grant these requests, but at this time, there’s no date for when offices will re-open, so this could also lead to a lengthy delay of a case.