I-2-0-70.Hearing Office Service Area
Last Update: 12/11/13 (Transmittal I-2-97)
Each hearing office (HO) has jurisdiction over a designated geographic area referred to as the HO's “service area.” The HO will generally process all requests for hearing (RH) for claimants residing in that area. In general, hearings will be held within 75 miles of the claimant's home.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) may only reimburse a claimant, representative, or un-subpoenaed witness for travel expenses if the distance between the hearing site and the person's residence or office, whichever he or she travels from, is more than 75 miles.
Please refer to the Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-3-13 for additional information regarding representative reimbursements. Although a representative may be eligible to request reimbursement based on the 75-mile requirement, other circumstances may preclude the agency from reimbursing the representative.
For additional information relating to reimbursement of travel expenses for claimants, see HALLEX I-2-0-72 E and I-2-3-13.
B. Screening the RH To Determine Jurisdiction
When an HO receives an RH, the HO staff will screen the RH to determine if the HO has jurisdiction, i.e., whether the claimant's address is in the geographic area the HO serves. If the HO does not have jurisdiction, the HO staff will forward the RH to the HO that has jurisdiction.
C. Claimant Relocates While RH is Pending
While an RH is pending, a claimant may notify SSA of a change in residence address that falls under the jurisdiction of another HO. Even if the new residence address is located in another HO's service area, the HO will not transfer the case unless the claimant will need to travel more than 75 miles to a hearing site in the jurisdiction of the HO.
A change in mailing address is insufficient to establish a change of residence (e.g., a P.O. Box does not establish a change of residence). If a change in mailing address to a P.O. Box suggests a claimant may need to travel more than 75 miles to the hearing site, the HO will contact the claimant or representative to verify the residence address. HO staff should accept any document that establishes a change in residence. The contact will be documented on a report of contact that is associated with the file as an exhibit.
D. Changing Place of Hearing
A claimant may request a change in the place of hearing to a location in the jurisdiction of another HO. However, administrative law judges (ALJ) will not routinely grant these requests. Routine changes of the place of hearing are disruptive and adversely affect service to other claimants. Also, changes to the place of hearing are often unnecessary due to the availability of video teleconferencing (VTC).
An ALJ may change the place of hearing upon a claimant's written or oral request if the claimant has good cause for making the request. Additionally, an ALJ may on his or her own initiative change the place of hearing if the change would promote the efficient administration of the hearing process and ensure the claimant receives a full and fair hearing.
If a new hearing location is within the jurisdiction of another HO, the transferring HO must notify all parties and the receiving HO of the change, stating the reasons for the change. The transferring HO management should contact the receiving HO management before transferring the case so that the receiving HO will be aware of the change. (See I-2-0-70 C above and I-2-3-10 E. 2.)