COVID-19 has forced many events to go remote. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently issued a press release announcing a new service designed to decrease the spread of Coronavirus and ensure public safety. The SSA announced that it is now offering online video hearings to hasten the decision-making process on disability compensation claims.
The SSA has been collaborating with Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) to administer appellate hearings via telephone. You can expect the SSA to call a few minutes before the scheduled hearing, so you should be prepared to take the call before your scheduled appointment time. The telephone hearing will have a few different people on the line including you, your representative, the Administrative Law Judge, and someone to record and monitor the hearing. Interpreters and medical experts could be on the call if their testimony is needed.
The SSA recommends for individuals to have the phone hearing using a land line over a cell phone as the call quality could be better. However, if individuals have to use their cell phones, they should prepare to be on the phone for 90 minutes in a location with good reception. Finally, participants should mute themselves when they are not talking so there is no background noise.
Video hearings follow the same procedure as in-person hearings, the only difference is that there is no face-to-face interaction. Online video hearings have been conducted through Microsoft Teams since fall 2020. Microsoft Teams is a safe and secure communication platform that provides a collaborative environment to host and attend virtual meetings, chats, and now disability hearings.
This application is free and allows meetings with 2 people or 10,000 people from all over the world. Video hearings can be joined via smartphones, tablets, or a computer as long as they are camera enabled. It’s the perfect platform to stay connected and organized with others.
Internet access is required for video hearings; and the device an individual is joining from needs a working microphone and speaker. Similar to the telephone hearings, you and your representative can join the Administrative Law Judge on the video conference. If medical experts are needed, they would join via phone call.
With this new online service, face to face interactions are limited in compliance with global health recommendations to keep everyone safe and free of risk. These online video hearings will also allow SSA staff members to communicate, discuss, and exchange information with a variety of representatives and witnesses from different locations.
The Commissioner of Social Security, Andrew Saul, said that online video and telephone hearings will be the only options available for the foreseeable future. Since March, the agency’s ALJs have held over 180,000 telephone hearings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The SSA is unsure when they will be able to safely open the Social Security Hearing Offices and resume in-person hearings. For individuals who do not want to have a telephone or video hearing, there is no estimate to how long they would have to wait. It is strongly recommended to have a hearing scheduled via telephone or video to ensure your claim is addressed in a timely manner.
The SSA has been using on the record requests, telephone, and online video hearings to make decisions about claimants’ eligibility for disability benefits. Please visit the SSA’s COVID-19 resource page for updates on the execution of this new hearing process and other Social Security information. The legal team at Khaki Law Firm focuses on Social Security disability law and already offers video consultations and client meetings. Call us today for more details on what to expect from online video hearings with the Social Security Administration.
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