Helping People With Disabilities Nationwide

Social Security to Permanently Move to Virtual Hearings

by | Jun 19, 2023 | SSD - Social Security Disability |

In March 2020, the Social Security Administration began holding all disability hearings over the phone in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the pandemic continued, the SSA also allowed for the option of video hearings held over Microsoft Teams.

The expectation always was that as pandemic abated, the administration would move back to in-person hearings, but the SSA has now announced plans for telephone or video hearings to be the default option moving forward, though claimants can still request an in-person hearing in front of an administrative law judge if they desire.

Social Security says the change comes after holding nearly one million successful virtual hearings over the course of pandemic. The administration also believes the move will save money in reduced travel costs.

While it’s largely a matter of personal preference whether you wish to have a hearing by phone, video, or in-person, the phone hearings largely seem to work well.

Some claimants worry that a judge cannot make a proper decision without seeing them in-person, though this very rarely seems to make a difference as disability determinations are based largely on medical records rather than what a judge personally sees before them.

If anything, in-person hearings can sometimes damage a claimant’s credibility. One common scenario that often occurs at these hearings is that someone with a back condition will testify that they can only sit for around 10-15 minutes, yet 30 minutes into a hearing, they still haven’t stood up. Judges will sometimes note this and use it as a reason to deny a strong case.

However, that’s not to say that phone and video hearings are perfect. Sometimes, calls drop or don’t go through or phones break the day of a hearing. In a small number of cases, hearings have not been recorded and have to be redone.

These incidents occur in very rare circumstances, however, but if they are a concern, it’s best to discuss your options for attending a hearing with your attorney ahead of time.



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