How to Prepare and What You Can Expect at Your SSD Phone Hearing.
Filing for disability benefits can be a long and complex process. Many people have a lot of questions and concerns regarding their upcoming hearing on top of the added stress of living with an ongoing disability.
A disability can prevent many from doing day-to-day activities and attending a hearing can be simply unattainable for some.
When COVID-19 was surging and businesses were unable to open, the Social Security Administration (SSA) needed to come up with a way for individuals going through the Social Security Disability (SSD) process to still have their hearings.
Many individuals can wait months for their hearings to happen. Delaying the process of obtaining these benefits for individuals who are in dire need was not an option.
The Social Security Administration then announced that the hearings would be done on video, or by phone. This way, everyone could stay safe, but also still have the hearings they needed to conduct.
After much success with these hearings, the SSA decided to continue to implement them as a convenient and flexible option for those living with a disability.
Living with a disability is difficult, managing through the process of obtaining disability benefits should not be. Read on for more information on what you can expect at your SSD phone hearing and how you can prepare.
Why Do I Need to Have a Hearing for my Disability Benefits?
When a claim is denied at the reconsideration level and an appeal is filed, the claim is then transferred to an OHO office.
The SSA holds disability hearings at the Office of Hearings Operations, also referred to as OHO. A federally appointed Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will conduct the hearing there.
It is important to know that although ALJs are appointed, they are not technically under the Social Security Administration’s authority. They are independent and neutral, which enables them to make unbiased decisions about Social Security Disability claims.
In preparation for your hearing, an experienced Social Security Disability attorney will gather medical evidence to support your claim and prepare you for your testimony.
Having an experienced Social Security Disability attorney to represent you at your hearing helps you, the claimant, focus on your health. Keeping doctors’ appointments and maintaining treatment for your disabilities is crucial to your SSD case.
What To Expect at My Telephone Hearing?
On the day of your hearing, you must answer your phone. You should be available a few minutes before your scheduled hearing time.
Just like an in-person hearing there will be several members on the phone call. This will include your attorney, the ALJ and a hearing reporter who will record and monitor the hearing be conducted. Please note every case is different and there could be other members on the phone including a vocational expert, medical expert or interpreter if needed.
At the hearing, your attorney will present evidence, take testimony, question the vocational expert and argue your case before the ALJ.
The ALJ will also review your file and analyze your medical and vocational evidence. This includes all the documents from your initial claim, as well as any new evidence. After the hearing, the SSA will send you a letter and a copy of the ALJ’s decision.
How Can I Prepare For my Disability Phone Hearing?
Below is a list of tips to follow to ensure you have the best phone hearing experience possible.
- If possible, try and use a landline for the telephone hearing. It will likely offer the best reception and you will not have to worry about battery life. Remember, the SSA will call whatever phone number you have provided to them prior to the hearing.
- If using a cell phone for the disability phone hearing, make sure the battery is fully charged before the hearing. You will need enough battery life for at least 90 minutes per SSA.
- Find a quiet location where you cannot be distracted, that also has good reception if you are using a cell phone.
- Use the mute option on your phone when you are not speaking, this will help reduce background noise. Remember to unmute the phone when you want to speak.
- Be prepared for questioning. Typically, the judge may ask you questions about your day-to-day living and how your disability affects you.
- Talk to your attorney prior to the hearing. If you have an attorney on your case, they will prepare you for your telephone hearing beforehand and answer any questions you may have.
Am I Required to do a Telephone Hearing?
It is important to note that you are not required to have a telephone hearing. If you wish, you are eligible for an in-person hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.
Right after the request for hearing is filed, a form is mailed to the claimant by SSA that offers the choice between a telephone hearing, Microsoft teams video hearing or in-person hearing. If the SSA never receives the form back from the claimant, they default schedule an in-person hearing.
Social Security is encouraging remote hearing options due to the backlog of disability claimants. Sometimes agreeing to a telephone or video hearing will often lead to shorter wait times for hearings. This means that if approved, you will then start receiving your benefits sooner as well.
Success is very possible at the hearing stage whether you have your hearing by phone or in person, because you can talk to the Judge and tell him or her about your disability in your own words. Having an experienced attorney on your side will help as well.
Disability lawyers are not required when applying for Social Security Disability benefits; however, they do increase your chances of success.
If you have been denied benefits and need representation for your disability hearing, contact the experienced Social Security Disability attorneys at Berger and Green today for a free consultation.