Social Security Disability hearings are still typically being held during the Covid 19 Emergency.
Presently, both the Akron and Cleveland Social Security Hearing Offices are conducting these hearings by phone. It is expected that hearings will be conducted this way at least through the end of May, and likely at least through June. While this is not the best way of holding a hearing, it is as good as it can get at the present time given social distancing guidelines. Social Security and their Administrative Law Judges should be commended for the steps they have taken to get this process in place and available to disabled claimants.
Thus far, Social Security has been holding these hearings by calling us (attorneys) either at our office or on our cell phone, and then they conference in you (the client) at your home. Even though it is preferable to be face to face doing these hearings, it seems as though these phone hearings are less stressful on clients and the judges are doing a great job overseeing these hearings in this abnormal environment.
Since this is not the normal way of holding a hearing, disability judges are allowing clients to decide whether to do their hearing by phone as scheduled, or whether they would rather postpone the hearing date for a face to face one when the coronavirus pandemic ends. But, who knows when that will be? Because it is unclear when the pandemic will end, and because most disabled Social Security claimants are in dire need of money, it is typically advisable to go forward with the phone hearing. Despite the foregoing, there may be some exceptions where a postponement over a phone hearing is advisable. These exceptions could include those with hearing impairments, those whose appearance strongly supports the alleged disability (perhaps skin diseases, morbid obesity, amputations), those who do not have a good phone connection, and/or those who have new testing or treatment scheduled after the hearing date that would strongly support their claim to Social Security benefits. Also, you may just feel more comfortable being face to face with a judge as a phone hearing probably does take away some of the humanity involved in making a disability decision.
All cases are different, and all clients have different financial needs. When our lawyers have our prehearing conferences with you, we will advise you of the pros and cons of having a phone hearing or postponing your hearing until it can be held face to face. Ultimately, however, this is your decision.
Please call us if you have any questions about a Social Security Disability hearing or about applying for benefits. We are open during the coronavirus emergency and we are fully capable of meeting your legal needs.