If your claim is denied upon initial application and reconsideration, you have the right to be heard by an administrative law judge (ALJ). Statistically, more claims are approved at the hearing level than at initial application or reconsideration. At present, the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) is not conducting in-person hearings due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, they have been conducting hearings by telephone and will soon offer online video hearings. The online video hearing (OVH) will be available on a computer, smart phone, or tablet, provided the claimant has a valid e-mail address. OHO must send written notice of the hearing to a claimant and appointed representative at least 75 days before the scheduled hearing date.
To protect your privacy at a telephone hearing or OVH, the ALJ will ask for confirmation that you are in a private secure location. No one should be in the same room with you nor communicating with you by text, e-mail, or otherwise during the hearing, though you may have an attorney or appointed representative on the line.
Some virtual assistant devices use technology that automatically records your voice commands at home. These devices should be turned off for the hearing, as no one can record the hearing without express permission from the ALJ. The ALJ’s hearing monitor will make the official recording of the hearing. To ensure good recording quality, the claimant should not be on a speaker.
Finally, the ALJ will also ask for confirmation that you are willing to have your hearing in this manner. As telephone or online video hearings are not mandatory, you do have the option to postpone your hearing until OHO is able to offer another option. However, there are no alternatives currently in place and the timeline for recommencing in-person hearings is unknown. If you request a postponement, OHO will send a notice giving you the new date, time, and place of your hearing when they reschedule it. The amended notice of hearing should be sent at least 20 days before the new hearing date.