After more than two years, in-person hearings will again be available to all disability claimants in 2022, though some logistical questions remain.
Social Security disability offices are tentatively scheduled to reopen to the public on March 30. Beginning May 4, administrative law judges can volunteer to hold in-person hearings, while all ALJs will be required to hold in-person hearings beginning June 3.
The Social Security Administration will be taking several precautions for the reopening. Anyone entering an office will be required to wear a mask and complete a questionnaire about possible Covid-19 symptoms.
In addition, only claimants and their appointed representatives will be hold in the hearing room with the judge. Some judges have previously allowed friends or family members to observe hearings with the permission of claimants, but it appears that this won’t be a possibility for the foreseeable future.
While the official confirmation of this plan has been vague about specifics, one judge has told me that claimants will continue to have the option to attend hearings by phone or through Microsoft Teams once in-person hearings resume.
And of course, all of this is dependent on the course of the pandemic, which has been unpredictable, to say the least.
The emergence of a new variant or sudden spike in cases could cause Social Security to postpone or cancel these reopening plans.
But for now at least, claimants who have been awaiting their in-person day in court for the last two years will only have a few more months to wait before they get in front of a judge.