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Disability Hearing Over The Phone During COVID-19

The Social Security Administration had to change how it handles outstanding disability claims at the hearing level due to the current coronavirus outbreak. Regardless of whether the hearing takes place in person or over the telephone, it will be the most significant part of your application process thus far. 

Similar to an in-person hearing, you need to prepare thoroughly for a disability hearing over the phone. Below are some steps you must take to prepare for your hearing. Read on to know what to expect as well as what happens after your hearing. 

Steps To Take Before The Hearing

While obtaining a scheduled hearing date may take some time, once obtained, proceedings carry forward rapidly. Medical providers' updated records must be obtained, and any pending documents, including financial statements and employment history, must be gathered.

Numerous questions are asked during a disability hearing due to the exhaustive nature of the review procedure. This is an excellent opportunity for you to present your disability case in your own words. Planning and practicing your responses to the judge are key components of your hearing preparations. 

A judge may give SSDI benefits only if they determine that your condition prevents you from returning to your prior job and learning or adjusting to a new type of work, taking your age, education, and work experience into account. 

What To Expect During Your Hearing

You should be able to answer your phone at the number provided in the hearing notice on the day of your telephone hearing. You will be contacted by a member of the SSA hearing office a few minutes before your scheduled hearing time. If feasible, conduct your telephone hearing in a quiet location to protect your privacy and eliminate interruptions.

As with an in-person or video hearing, your telephonic hearing will include several participants: your representative (if you have one), the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and a hearing reporter who will record and supervise the proceedings. Additional parties may be involved, such as a vocational expert, a medical expert, or an interpreter.

Telephonic hearings will be conducted in the same manner as in-person hearings. The ALJ will induct all hearing participants, administer the oath, listen to your testimony, and, if necessary, question you. Additionally, you will be able to ask questions during the hearing.

To ensure that your disability hearing over the phone is of the highest quality, we recommend the following:

  • If you have a classic 'land line' telephone, consider upgrading to it, as it will likely provide a better connection and sound quality.
  • If you use a cell phone, ensure that the battery is charged sufficiently to sustain a discussion for at least 90 minutes. Locate a site that offers both privacy and decent reception.
  • When you’re not speaking, use the mute button on your telephone to help reduce background noise. Remember to unmute your microphone when you wish to speak.

What Happens After Your Meeting?

After the hearing concludes, it may take between two and five months for the ALJ to render a decision. While many judges may reach a conclusion sooner, the decision must be properly documented and recorded in the Social Security system before it can be issued and regarded as final.

Waiting times vary for each office and are determined by various factors, including the number of claims handled and the availability of decision writers.

Finally, the SSDI hearing process has numerous moving parts that can be challenging to navigate on your own. Working with a knowledgeable representative can help alleviate anxiety and may boost your chances of receiving a favorable verdict.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in a lot of government processes. However, the Social Security Administration figured out a way to keep things moving by offering the option of a disability hearing over the phone. While these aren’t mandatory, there are a few things you should keep in mind before and during your hearing. 

Once you’ve attended your hearing, you can check the status of your disability claim in order to stay on top of the process. Visit Disability Help’s website for more information on disabilities. Their resources cover everything from secondary VA conditions to arthritis and everything in between. 

Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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