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Virtual Hearings May Be The New Normal

Virtual Hearings May Be The New Normal

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Social Security Administration (SSA) shut down all of its offices. When it became clear that this thing was not going to be over in two weeks, the SSA reopened virtually. In person disability benefit hearings are still on hold, but applicants have the option of doing a telephone hearing or an online video hearing. Seelig Law Offices has found these virtual options to be a safe and relatively convenient option for our disabled clients in the New York City area.

A “Temporary” Change

New York City was one of the places hit early and hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Seelig Law Offices, like almost every organization in Manhattan, listened to public health officials and shut our doors for a couple of weeks last March in order to help flatten the curve.

The Social Security Administration made a similar call. The SSA closed all of its offices, and asked its staff to work from home. While the Seelig Law team has carefully returned to work in our Manhattan office building, the SSA has not. SSA staff continue to work from home, or with a very limited number of people in the office.

In order to continue holding disability benefit hearings, the SSA made all of its hearings virtual.

Virtual Hearings

Applicants have the option of having their hearing over the phone, or via videoconference. Both options are safe and relatively convenient.

Virtual hearings are very similar to in-person hearings. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) swears in all hearing participants, delivers the oath, listens to your testimony, and asks you questions. Applicants also have an opportunity to ask questions during their hearing.

If you are a Seelig Law Group client, we will assist you with all of these steps, just as we would at an in-person hearing. We may also pull other people, like a vocational expert, medical expert, or interpreter, into the hearing.

Tips For Success

The SSA has a few tips for making a virtual hearing a success.

If you are doing a telephone hearing, they 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 least 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.

If you are doing a video hearing, you will need:

  • Access to email so the SSA can send you the link to the online video hearing
  • A device such as a computer, laptop or Smartphone that:
        • Has a camera, microphone, and speakers
        • Can download and install the MS Teams application and
        • Is connected to a high speed internet connection or Wi-Fi data connection
        • A space that is quiet and private for you to participate in an online video hearing.

    If you are a Seelig Law Group client, we can help you master the technology you need to make your virtual hearing a success. There is no reason you should fear a virtual hearing with us at your side.

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