Last Update: 8/29/14 (Transmittal I-2-117)
Unless the agency exercises its authority under the pilot program in 20 CFR 404.936 and 416.1436 that began on August 9, 2010, the administrative law judge (ALJ) sets the time and place for the hearing. The ALJ may change the time and place, if necessary. The objective is to hold a hearing as soon as possible after the request for hearing (RH) is filed, at a site convenient to the claimant. The hearing office (HO) staff will generally contact hearing participants to ascertain availability before scheduling the hearing.
If a claimant threatens violence against the general public or HO personnel, or has been banned from entering a Federal or Social Security facility, see the instructions for scheduling a hearing in 20 CFR 404.937 and 416.1437 and in Chapter I-1-9-0 of the Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual.
A. Determining the Time and Place for Hearing
When an ALJ sets the time and place for a hearing, the ALJ will consider:
The number and types of cases to be set for hearing,
The proximity of the hearing site to the claimant's residence, and
The availability of the claimant, representative, and witnesses on the proposed hearing date.
To the extent possible, the location of the hearing site will be within 75 miles of the claimant's residence. The ALJ will also consider scheduling the hearing by video teleconferencing (VTC) or, in certain extraordinary circumstances, by telephone. See HALLEX I-2-0-15.
1. Determining the Claimant's Manner of Appearance
The ALJ determines the claimant's manner of appearance at the hearing, and will notify the claimant of the manner of appearance in the notice of hearing. See 20 CFR 404.936 and 416.1436. However, in determining how the claimant will appear at the hearing, the ALJ must approve a claimant's timely submitted objection to appearing by VTC (unless the claimant changes residences while the request for hearing is pending), as explained in HALLEX I-2-0-15 and I-2-0-21. Regardless of a claimant's manner of appearance at the hearing, the ALJ must inquire fully into all matters at issue and conduct the hearing in a fair and impartial manner. See HALLEX I-2-6-1.
A claimant or other party to the hearing will not be denied the right to a hearing because of geographic considerations. See HALLEX I-2-1-45 D.
a. Appearance in Person
An ALJ will schedule a claimant to appear in person at the hearing when:
An in-person hearing will be more timely and efficient than a hearing by VTC; or
The claimant properly objected to a hearing by VTC, as described in HALLEX I-2-0-21, and the claimant has not changed his or her residence while the request for hearing is pending.
See HALLEX I-2-3-11 B for circumstances when an ALJ will honor a claimant's objection to appearing via VTC even if he or she changed residences while the request for hearing is pending.
A claimant's confinement in a prison or other institution may require an ALJ to schedule the hearing at the place of confinement, unless other arrangements can be made. See HALLEX I-2-3-10 A.1.b below.
b. Appearance by VTC
An ALJ will schedule a claimant to appear at a hearing by VTC when:
VTC equipment is available to conduct the appearance;
Use of VTC to conduct the appearance would be more efficient than conducting the appearance in person; and
There is no circumstance in the particular case that prevents the use of VTC to conduct the appearance.
Though an ALJ will do so whenever practicable, an ALJ is not required to honor a claimant's request to appear by VTC.
The ALJ may determine a VTC appearance is not appropriate when:
It is more efficient to hold an in-person hearing because the claimant's residence is closer to the HO than a VTC-equipped site;
An ALJ is available at a remote site for another reason;
An ALJ would have to travel to another office to access the VTC equipment and such travel would be at a greater expense than traveling to the remote site;
The claimant presents a threat of violence and there is insufficient security at the remote site;
The claimant has a visual or auditory impairment of a type that could adversely affect his or her ability to appear and participate in the hearing through VTC;
The claimant alleges bias on the part of an expert witness and the ALJ determines that the claimant should have the opportunity to cross examine the witness in person; or
The existing evidence indicates that in-person observation of the claimant is required to evaluate the claim properly.
When a claimant is confined in a prison or other institution, and the institution has VTC technology, ALJs are encouraged to hold the hearing by VTC for security reasons and to reduce delays in the hearing that may otherwise occur.
c. Appearance by Telephone
The claimant or any party to the hearing may request to appear at the hearing by telephone. The ALJ will grant the request to appear by telephone if the ALJ determines that extraordinary circumstances prevent the claimant or other party from appearing in person or by VTC. See 20 CFR 404.936 and 416.1436. Extraordinary circumstances at the claimant's request are generally limited to incarceration, institutionalization, natural disasters, or very unusual circumstances directly related to a claimant's impairments.
Additionally, an ALJ may direct that a claimant or other party appear at the hearing by telephone due to extraordinary circumstances. When the claimant is incarcerated, the ALJ will direct that a claimant appear by telephone only if an in person or VTC hearing is not possible.
Since an ALJ will direct a claimant's appearance by telephone only under extraordinary circumstances, the claimant is not given an opportunity to object to this manner of appearance. See HALLEX I-2-3-12 A.
2. Determining the Manner of Appearance by Other Necessary Persons
The ALJ will determine whether any person other than the claimant, including a medical or vocational expert, will appear at the hearing in person, by VTC, or by telephone. The notice of hearing will inform the claimant of the manner of these appearances.
The ALJ will direct a person other than the claimant to appear by VTC or telephone when the ALJ determines the following:
VTC or telephone equipment is available;
Use of VTC or telephone equipment would be more efficient than conducting an examination of a witness or medical or vocational expert in person; and
There is no other reason that VTC or telephone should not be used.
If the claimant objects to any other person appearing by VTC or by telephone, the ALJ will decide the issue, either in writing or at the hearing. See HALLEX I-2-3-12.
B. Estimating the Time Required for the Hearing
When an ALJ schedules several hearings in succession, the ALJ will estimate the time required for each hearing to ensure that the schedule allows sufficient time for each hearing.
C. Adjourning, Postponing, or Continuing the Hearing
Before the time set for a hearing, an ALJ may postpone the hearing, or an ALJ may adjourn a hearing that is in progress and continue it at a later date. In either circumstance, the ALJ will give the claimant reasonable notice of postponement or continuance of a hearing. See HALLEX I-2-3-35.