Published on: August 19, 2020
If you’ve applied for Social Security disability benefits during the COVID-19 crisis, or applied previously and had your hearing scheduled during the last few months, then you are aware of how COVID-19 has disrupted normal SSA protocol when it comes to hearings. Typical in-person disability hearings before an administrative law judge have been discontinued in favor of hearings over the telephone.
Although having a telephone hearing for Social Security disability benefits may raise more questions than a typical in-person hearing, having the counsel of disability experts by your side can make all the difference. In the turmoil of COVID-19 and restructuring of normal SSA operations, having a disability benefits advocate work with you on your case can give you the peace of mind you deserve.
COVID-19 & Telephone Hearings
Many SSA offices, and both local and state courts, were indefinitely closed to the public back in March at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to these closures, in-person appointments, such as Social Security disability hearings, were affected. All in-person meetings before an administrative law judge were canceled and claimants have been given the option for either a telephone hearing or postponing for an in-person hearing till after the crisis.
The choice to decline a telephone hearing is up to you. However, rescheduling a social security hearing until the courts open up could mean you must wait an indefinite amount of time before you have a definite Social Security disability hearing date.
What to Expect During Your Tele-Hearing
If you do decide on having your Social Security disability hearing over the telephone, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The SSA will send you the COVID-19 Telephone Hearing Agreement form instead of calling you. This form can also be downloaded to complete and upload through Appointed Representative Services (ARS) for those with access, or faxed into the SSA hearing office if you don’t have any access to ARS.
If you do want to go forward with a telephone hearing, you will indicate it on the form and provide the SSA phone numbers they can reach you for the hearing.
On the day of your telephone hearing, it’s critical that you are available to answer your phone. Find a quiet place to be alone, or with an advocate, so you can avoid any noise or distractions and protect your privacy.
Just as if you were having an in-person hearing before an administrative law judge, there will be a number of people on the hearing with you: you, an advocate if you hired one, the administrative law judge, a hearing reporter, and other participants such as a medical expert.
The SSA offers some tips about how to ensure a successful telephone hearing:
- If you have the option of a land-line phone over a cell phone, choose the traditional option for better connectivity and sound.
- If you do choose your cell phone, make sure it's charged. Telephone hearings will be at least an hour so make sure your phone has an adequate charge.
- Reduce background noise by using the mute button on your phone if you are not speaking.
How a Disability Experts Advocate Can Help You Prepare For Your Hearing
A disability hearing can be nerve-wracking, especially over the telephone. However, it doesn’t have to be. With a Disability Experts of Florida advocate by your side, you can remain confident that you have an experienced export fighting for your claim.
An experienced disability advocate can help you prepare and present your case in a professional manner, increasing your odds of coming out on top of your Social Security disability hearing - whether it’s through telephone or in-person.
The disability hearing vocational experts of DEF have over 100 years of combined experience in handling cases at this stage. We have successfully helped hundreds of clients go before an ALJ and receive the benefits they deserve and will continue to do so all through the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, if you’d like an experienced advocate on your side, or even just afraid you’ll say the wrong thing, hiring a professional disability advocate can increase the likelihood of winning your disability case they can help present your case and provide guidance and coaching. If you are anticipating a telephone hearing or already have a date already set but want an expert advocate’s counsel, contact the professionals at Disability Experts of Florida (DEF) today.