The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all departments of the Social Security Administration, including the ability to hold in person hearings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Since April, the Office of Hearing Operations has been holding hearings via telephone for those that have the capability to do so. The hearing office and local Social Security offices have been closed to employees and the public since April. The telephone hearings have assisted in preventing a delay of claims.
Many medical and vocational experts already appeared by telephone prior to the pandemic. The court reporters and the ALJ’s are now working from home and the telephone hearings are held with all parties on a conference and recorded line. Our office has the attorney or representative also at their home or at the office, and the Claimants at their home. A court reporter contacts all parties and facilitates the call.
This process has not been without technical difficulties, but in many instances, it has allowed a claim to go forward with a hearing and not be delayed by the closing of the hearing office. However, some cases can not be done via telephone. Some Claimants may not have reliable phone service, they have mental impairments that keep them from being able to handle the stress and anxiety of a telephone hearing, or they have hearing difficulties that prevent them from communicating in this manner. If there is any reason you cannot have a hearing via telephone, the ALJ must grant a postponement for an in-person hearing once those become available.