The Social Security Administration has been generally closed for in-person services since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the nearly two-year closure, Social Security Administration has had to adapt with the ever-changing Covid-19 surges and safety protocol. When the pandemic first began, Social Security Administration only provided the option for individuals to have their hearing held by telephone. This meant the individual could either proceed with their disability hearing by either agreeing to a telephone hearing or postponing their hearing until in-person dates became available. This became challenging to those individuals who wanted to appear in person because there was no way for them to know when offices might be reopening. Then in September 2020, SSA announced the availability of a video hearing option using the Microsoft Teams software. More recently, in January 2022 the Commissioner announced the agency reached an agreement with its unions regarding a “reentry plan.” According to this plan, the SSA is planning on keeping telework schedules for most employees, however local offices will restore increased walk-in services in early April 2022. While these limited services will be available, they will still be encouraging the public to conduct most business online and schedule appointments if necessary. Regarding in person hearings, the plan notes that limited in-person hearings with a limited set of judges will an available option soon. Essentially the plan creates the option of limited in-person hearings with the continuing availability of telephone and video hearings. Overall, it is important to understand your available hearing options and then determine which option is best for you depending on your specific situation as well as safety concerns.
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