After closing hearing offices to the public in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Social Security finally began offering limited in-person hearings this summer.
I’ve since attended two of these hearings at different offices in Illinois and can report that they are largely going off without a hitch.
The biggest different from the pre-Covid days is that Social Security requires claimants and their attorneys to take a brief three question survey online about whether they are experiencing any Covid symptoms. I haven’t had any issues with this survey on my laptop, but clients have told me that it is very difficult to use on a smartphone, so just a word of warning that you may need assistance with this if you opt for an in-person hearing.
The Social Security Administration is also requiring masks be worn within hearing offices, and is only letting claimants enter buildings 15 minutes before their scheduled hearings. There are also plexiglass dividers in hearing rooms to reduce the transmission of Covid. Despite these safety protocols, they did not have any impact on how the hearings were conducted.
One continuing issue, however, is that the administration is not currently offering hearings at remote video sites, so if you opt to have an in-person hearing with an administrative law judge, it could mean a significant drive of several hours.
So, is it worth requesting an in-person hearing at this point? Well, every case is different, and it’s worth discussing with an attorney if it’s something you would like to do. The good news is that these hearings are currently moving forward without any significant technical issues.