May 23, 2022

Social Security Disability Hearing Offices are Beginning to Reopen for In-Person Hearings

Social Security disability hearing offices are beginning to reopen for in-person hearings. Many of my clients may be happy to learn that in-person hearings have resumed recently. These hearings are currently scheduled on very limited basis because only one administrative law judge is presiding over them. I’ve personally represented clients at three hearings at the Indianapolis Office of Hearings Operations.  It’s not just the Indianapolis Hearing Office.  Based on my current calendar, it appears that more judges will be performing in-person hearings starting in August at Hearing Offices across the region.

Hearing Offices are instituting new COVID-19 protocols to keep claimants and Social Security staff safe. Many claimants for Social Security disability benefits suffer from medical conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19, so Social Security has taken many steps to protect them.  Prior to your arrival, you must complete a questionnaire regarding your health status on Social Security’s website: www.ssa.gov/appeals/checkin.html.  You must wear a mask to participate in the hearing. The hearing room is now set up with tables at safe distances between individuals that are participating, and there are plastic partitions in front of each table. I have been told that the hearing room is cleaned and disinfected after each hearing. Additionally, an air purifier has been placed in each room.

As we move our way though to the end of this year, I anticipate an increased number of in-person hearings as additional judges go back into Hearing Offices. Until then, it looks like Social Security will conduct a mixture of in-person hearings and telephone hearings. If you are not comfortable going into a Hearing Office, Social Security will still allow you to participate in your hearing by phone. If you’ve been waiting for an in-person hearing, your hearing may be approaching in the coming months. The last few years have been difficult and frustrating for my clients in a lot of ways. It is my hope that getting back to in-person hearings will lets claimants finally be seen, as well as heard, will make them feel like they are getting the fair treatment that they deserve.

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