After closing field officers for more than two years, Social Security has started to hold limited in-person hearings for certain cases, but the process now looks very different from what it did two years ago before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While I have yet to attend one of the new in-person hearings myself, reports of the new procedures in place have started to spread among disability attorneys.
The first thing is that the day before your hearing, you will have to go online and answer several questions about possible symptoms and exposure to Covid-19. If you are unable to access the website to do this, you can call the field office the day prior to the hearing and answer questions over the phone.
While before the pandemic it was common for claimants to arrive at offices even an hour before their hearing, that’s no longer allowed.
Claimants can only arrive up to 15 minutes prior to their hearing for a security screening. Only the claimant and their representative will then be allowed in the hearing office. Friends and family are not allowed to enter the building. Masks will also be required to be worn while inside the hearing offices.
While other procedures will vary by location, many attorneys have commented that there are no plexiglass dividers throughout hearing rooms separating claimants, attorneys and judges. And at least one attorney stated that he was asked to use Clorox wipes on any surfaces he touched.
In the alternative, Social Security is still allowing any claimants who request it to appear by telephone or video for their disability hearings.