Back in March 2020, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced the temporary closing of its hearing offices because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of these office closings, the SSA started offering online video hearings to accommodate the change in circumstances. While online hearings proceed the same way as in-person hearings did, there is definitely some adjusting to conducting business via an online platform. Even still, participants will still be sworn in. Testimony will still be heard. Vocational and medical experts can also join the hearing via phone to provide testimony as well. Here are some other things you will need to know about online Social Security hearings.
Online Social Security Hearings: What You Need to Know
Online Social Security hearings are held via Microsoft teams. Applicants for Social Security benefits appear with their representatives if they have them, as well as an administrative law judge. In order to have your online hearing scheduled, you first need to complete the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Hearing Agreement form. On this form, you need to indicate which hearing option you prefer. You can select that you are okay with a hearing via telephone or via online video conferencing. Once this completed form has been submitted, your hearing will be scheduled for the earliest available date.
To help you prepare for your online hearing, you can review the general guides created by the SSA for claimants and their representatives. The guides are fairly extensive and include a user manual along with a training video. The guides provide information on how the hearing will be structured.
You can join an online hearing with a smartphone or any personal device. You will need a stable internet connection and no camera is required. It is not mandatory to have a video hearing. In fact, claimants can still opt to have a hearing via a telephone call. If you are concerned about privacy, you can rest assured that video hearings are conducted through the SSA’s secure network.
In order to be eligible to participate in online video hearings, you need to have access to an email account so that the SSA can connect you to the hearing. Once your hearing has been scheduled, you will receive an official notice from the SSA to confirm your online video hearing that will be sent through the U.S. post office mail. You will also receive an email from an @ssa.gov email address to the email account you listed on your COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Hearing Agreement form. This email will be a reminder sent a few days prior to your hearing.
Since the SSA began these virtual hearings, over 3,500 virtual hearings have been held and more than 35,000 claimants have selected the virtual hearing format as their preference. As with anything, the SSA is continuing to iron out any wrinkles in the process. If you participate in a virtual hearing, you are encouraged to complete the satisfaction survey the SSA will send to you.