SSA and ALJ Union Reach Agreement on Return to In-Person Hearings

empty courtroom

Social Security disability claimants will soon have the option to return to offices and in-person hearings. As we enter year three of the Coronavirus pandemic, some positive steps are being taken to improve access to Social Security Administration (SSA) services.

The SSA published a statement on January 19, 2022, indicating the possibility of returning to in-person services as soon as mid-2022. Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) have the option to hold in-person hearings starting on May 4, 2022; and by June 3, 2022, all ALJs who are medically able to attend will be required to hold in-person hearings. On days where hearings are not taking place, ALJs can choose to either work from home or continue coming into an office.

Current SSA Hearing Procedures

In-person hearings with the SSA have been put on a temporary pause since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic in March of 2020. Since in-office visits were no longer permitted, hearings have been taking place via telephone or online video.

Phone and video hearings are conducted in the same way as in-person hearings. First, the ALJ will swear in all participants; then, you will share your testimony. Present on these calls will also be any medical experts or interpreters if necessary.

Precautions in Place for Returning to In-Person Hearings

Individuals participating in in-person hearings must follow a set of guidelines put in place to protect the safety of everyone. Before attending the hearing, everyone will have to complete a screening questionnaire, which includes personal questions regarding vaccination status, exposure to COVID-19, and the presence of any COVID symptoms.

In addition to the questionnaire, masks will be required when entering the hearing office. If claimants do not have masks, they can get one there. With the return to in-person hearings, opportunities for social distancing will be available to claimants and all other participants in the hearing. There will also be plexiglass between the ALJ and others in the room, stricter cleaning protocols, HEPA filtration, and additional safety measures in place.

Contact The Khaki Law Firm Today

Navigating the SSA’s hearing process during the Coronavirus pandemic can be challenging for everyone. Fortunately, the team here at The Khaki Law Firm is here to help in any way we can. Our goal is to take away the stress of dealing with the SSA. Contact us today to set up a consultation or reach out with any questions.

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