Last Update: 1/21/20 (Transmittal I-2-231)
Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) management, through designated staff, sets the time and place for the hearing. OHO management, or designated staff, may change the time and place, if necessary. The objective is to hold a hearing as soon as possible after the request for hearing is filed, at a site convenient to the claimant. OHO staff will generally contact hearing participants to ascertain their availability before scheduling the hearing.
If a claimant threatens violence against the general public or OHO 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.
B. Determining the Time and Place for Hearing
OHO management, through designated staff, will consider the following factors when setting the time and place for a hearing:
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. OHO management, through designated staff, will also consider scheduling the hearing by video teleconferencing (VTC) or, in certain extraordinary circumstances, by telephone. See HALLEX I-2-0-15. The Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge (HOCALJ), or his or her designee, will determine whether to direct an appearance by telephone.
1. Determining the Claimant's Manner of Appearance
OHO management, through designated staff, determines the claimant's manner of appearance at the hearing, and will notify the claimant and appointed representative, if any, of the manner of appearance in the notice of hearing. See 20 CFR 404.936, 404.938, 416.1436 and 416.1438. However, in determining how the claimant will appear at the hearing, OHO management, through designated staff, 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 administrative law judge (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 by VTC or in Person
OHO management, through designated staff, will generally schedule a claimant to appear either by VTC or in person and will consider:
The availability of VTC equipment to conduct the appearance;
Whether use of VTC to conduct the appearance would be less efficient than conducting the appearance in person; and
Any facts in the particular case that provide a good reason to schedule the appearance by VTC or in person.
OHO management, through designated staff, will schedule an in person appearance if the claimant properly objected to appearing 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 OHO management, through designated staff, will honor a claimant's objection to appearing via VTC even if he or she changed residences while the request for hearing is pending.
Though OHO management, through designated staff, will do so whenever practicable, we are not required to honor a claimant's request to appear by VTC.
OHO management, through designated staff, 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 hearing office 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 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; or
The claimant presents a threat of violence, and there is insufficient security at the remote site.
For claimants who are incarcerated or otherwise confined in an institution:
If the institution has VTC technology, OHO management, through designated staff, will schedule the hearing by VTC for security reasons and to reduce delays in the hearing that may otherwise occur.
If VTC is not available, OHO management, through designated staff, will generally schedule the claimant's appearance by telephone, unless there are facts in the particular case that provide a good reason to schedule an appearance in person, if allowed by the place of confinement, or by VTC or in person upon the claimant's release. See 20 CFR 404.936(c)(3) and 416.1436(c)(3).
b. Appearance by Telephone
In certain extraordinary circumstances, the HOCALJ, or his or her designee, will direct a claimant or other party to the hearing to appear by telephone. The HOCALJ, or his or her designee, may do so on his or her own initiative or at the request of the claimant or other party to the hearing. The HOCALJ, or his or her designee, will direct a claimant or other party to the hearing to appear by telephone if appearance by VTC or in person is not possible or other 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 are generally limited to incarceration, institutionalization, natural disasters, or very unusual circumstances directly related to a claimant's impairments.
Since the HOCALJ, or his or her designee, will direct a claimant's appearance by telephone only under extraordinary circumstances, he or she is not required to consider any objection by the claimant to this manner of appearance. See HALLEX I-2-3-12 A.1.
If the claimant is incarcerated, see HALLEX I-2-3-10 B.1.a.
2. Determining the Manner of Appearance of Witnesses
OHO management, through designated staff, will generally direct any person the ALJ calls as a witness, including a medical or vocational expert, to appear at the hearing by telephone or VTC. OHO management, through designated staff, will also direct any witness the claimant calls to appear at a hearing in the same manner as the claimant, or to appear by VTC or telephone if he or she cannot appear in the same manner as the claimant. The notice of hearing will inform the claimant of the manner of these appearances.
OHO management, through designated staff, will only direct a witness other than the claimant or another party to the hearing to appear in person in the following circumstances:
Telephone or VTC equipment is not available;
Use of telephone or VTC equipment would be less efficient than conducting an examination of a witness in person; or
There are facts in the particular case that provide a good reason to schedule the individual's appearance in person.
3. Scheduling With Appointed Representatives
a. Obtaining Availability
OHO management, through designated staff, will obtain the representative's availability for hearings, including specific dates and times the representative is available for hearings with each particular hearing office or hearing center. When obtaining the representative's availability, OHO staff will specify how many potential dates and times are required to coordinate the hearings schedule.
b. Incomplete Scheduling Information
If the representative does not provide the requested scheduling information, OHO staff will notify OHO management. See HALLEX I-1-1-40.
c. Preventing Concurrent Scheduling at Multiple Hearings
OHO staff must take steps to avoid creating scheduling conflicts. To avoid scheduling conflicts, OHO staff should use methods that include:
Promptly entering scheduling information into the Case Processing & Management System (CPMS); and
Utilizing Schedule Assistant in CPMS to see if representatives are already scheduled for a hearing in another office.
C. Estimating the Time Required for the Hearing
When OHO management, through designated staff, schedules several hearings in succession, OHO staff will estimate the time required for each hearing to ensure that the schedule allows sufficient time for each hearing.
D. Adjourning, Postponing, or Continuing the Hearing
An ALJ may postpone a hearing before the time set for the hearing, or an ALJ may adjourn a hearing that is in progress and continue it at a later date. In either circumstance, OHO management, through designated staff, will notify the claimant at least 20 days before the date of the postponed or continued hearing. The new date for the postponed or continued hearing must still be at least 75 days from the date of the initial notice of hearing, unless the claimant has waived the right to advance notice. See HALLEX I-2-3-30 and I-2-3-35.