SSA Hearing Options Available During COVID-19

We closed Social Security hearing offices to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This closure protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Our hearing offices will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future, and we will not be offering in-person service in our hearing offices. Instead, we are providing two flexible, safe and secure hearing options. If you cannot wait for an answer on your claim, we strongly encourage you to accept either a telephone hearing or, coming later this fall, an online video hearing because we do not have an estimate of when our offices may reopen for an in-person hearing.

Currently Available Hearing Options:

Telephone Hearings

After you submit your Request for Hearing (SSA-501) form, we will send a notice package acknowledging that we have received your request for a hearing and provide information about telephone hearings.

Telephone hearings are not mandatory, and we will ask you to confirm if you would like your hearing by telephone. If you do not want to have your hearing by telephone, you may ask us to postpone your hearing until we can offer another option.

Please note we cannot provide an estimate of how long our offices will remain closed.

If you requested a postponement, we will send a notice giving you the new date, time and place of your hearing when we reschedule your hearing. We will send this notice at least 20 days before the date of the new hearing.

Telephone Hearings – What To Expect/How To Prepare

On the day of your phone hearing, you MUST be available to answer your phone. A member of our hearing office staff will call you a few minutes before your scheduled hearing time. If possible, find a quiet place for your telephone hearing to protect your privacy and avoid distractions.

Just like an in-person or video hearing, there will be a number of participants on the telephone hearing with you: you, your representative (if you are represented), the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and a hearing reporter who will record and monitor the hearing. There may be other participants on the line as well, such as a vocational expert, medical expert, or interpreter.

We will conduct telephone hearings the same way we conduct in person hearings. The ALJ will swear in all hearing participants, deliver the oath, listen to your testimony, and ask you questions, if necessary. You also will have the opportunity to ask questions during the hearing.

To ensure you experience the best quality for your telephone hearing, we recommend the following:

  • Consider a traditional ‘land line’ telephone if you have one, which will likely provide you with a better connection and sound quality.
  • If you use a cell phone, be sure you charge your cell phone to have enough battery to hold a conversation for at 90 minutes. Find a location with privacy and good reception.
  • Use the mute button on your telephone when you are not speaking to help reduce background noise. Remember to unmute when you testify.

Online Video Hearings  *Coming Soon*

In our continued effort to provide flexible and convenient service options and protect the health and safety of the people we serve, we are pleased to announce that beginning this fall we will introduce another hearing option – online video hearings using a free platform called Microsoft (MS) Teams.

What are online video hearings? What will they be like?

Claimants and representatives can attend their online video hearing from any private place with a secure internet connection using their camera enabled phone, tablet, or computer. Here are some examples of how online video hearings will look to hearing participants:

Laptop/Computer view:

Devices

Smartphone view:

cell phone

What to expect at your online video hearing?

We will conduct online video hearings the same way we conduct telephone and in person hearings. The ALJ will swear in all hearing participants, deliver the oath, listen to your testimony, and ask you questions, if necessary. You also will have the opportunity to ask questions during the hearing. You will see the ALJ and your representative if you have appointed one. Other participants such as Vocational/Medical experts and interpreters will join by phone only.

During online video hearings, our employees connect to the hearing using SSA’s secure agency network. The ALJ will conduct the video hearing from a private room in his or her residence using a secure internet connection. We will ask that all participants on the video call participate in a private setting both for privacy and to prevent distractions and interruptions.

When will you begin offering online video hearings?

We plan to implement online video hearings in early fall, focusing on our most critical and aged cases. Like our telephone hearing option, the online video hearing option is not mandatory. However, our offices will remain closed for the foreseeable future. If you cannot wait for an answer on your claim, we encourage you to consider a telephone or online video option.

We will update this website to let you know when we begin online video hearings. Please bookmark this page and check back.

COVID-19 Update Message

We encourage you to subscribe to the SSA Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) page to get updates on SSA services during the COVID-19 crisis.