“Help! I’ve got a disability hearing coming up. What do I do?”
COVID-19 has limited how we use our Social Security Offices. The office around the corner from our building has not done in-person appointments since March. This can cause problems when it is time for your hearing with a judge.
Telephone Hearings Are Optional
If you are disabled and have a Social Security hearing in the near future it is likely to be held by telephone only. Instead of traveling to the Social Security office where you would see the judge there or by video, you will only be able to hear the judge and witnesses. If you are hearing impaired or have other issues that make phone calls hard, you may want to wait for the in-person hearing.
Advantages to In-Person Hearings
There are some advantages to having a hearing where the judge can see you. If you have pain or other issues that make it hard to sit longer than a few minutes you want the judge to see that. Your discomfort, movement, and standing during the hearing should be observed by the judge.
For the hearing impaired an in-person hearing might be necessary. If you rely on reading lips to communicate, using a telephone may hurt your ability to communicate your health problems. Lastly, the judge may believe you better if you look them in the eye and tell them why you are disabled.
Disadvantages to Waiting for In-Person Hearings
There is a very big disadvantage to waiting for an in-person hearing. We do not know when in-person hearings will resume. You might wait two or three months just to have your case delayed again. Social Security has not said when they will have normal hearings again. If the virus continues to cause problems into the fall and winter, you might wait a long time.
While you are waiting for a decision from Social Security, you are probably not going to receive benefits. Bear in mind that even after the hearing, it might take the judge six months or more to issue a decision.
How to Maximize Your Telephone Hearing – Four Tips
If you do not want to delay your hearing there are things you can do to minimize the problems caused by a telephone hearing. Here are four tips to make the best of the situation:
- If the telephone hearing is difficult, have your lawyer tell the judge on the record before the questions begin. For example, if you are hearing impaired, tell the judge we may have to repeat ourselves due to the impairment.
- Have your lawyer talk about your limitation as it presents during the hearing. For example, if you are shifting in your seat or standing tell the judge you are doing so.
- Take pictures during the hearing and submit them with a brief after the hearing. If you use a device like a cane or dictation tool, take a picture of it in use during the hearing.
- if you did not hear a question, never assume you know what the question was. Ask the judge or lawyer to repeat themselves.
Where to Learn More
If you still have questions about your Social Security hearing check out these resources: