Social Security Benefits and the Covid-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive effect on everything, so it’s not surprising that it’s also affected social security disability claims.
Most Offices of Hearing Operations (OHO) were closed due to the pandemic, which leads to the initial cancellation of many people’s hearings.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic and technology have changed the way hearings are conducted.
It’s now conducted via telephone.
Telephonic hearings started on April 1, 2020, and may stay for some time.
There were multiple reasons to start telephone hearings.
The leading cause, of course, was the pandemic, as people were forced to stay at home. But as many people were dependent on these benefits, the government decided to go ahead with telephonic hearings.
The concept continues mainly because most of the applicants are seniors and people with disabilities. They anyway find it challenging to head to the OHOs for the hearings. It’s much more convenient for them to conduct their hearing over the phone.
Besides, most hearing office rooms are small and crowded.
It’s not easy to maintain social distancing protocols in them. Besides, it’s not easy to thoroughly clean the hearing offices between hearings.
Are Telephonic Hearings Mandatory?
However, it’s not easy to decide if you should agree to a telephone hearing or not.
There are various factors to consider before agreeing to it:
- The judge won’t be able to see you and the severity of your impairment.
- Telephone hearings won’t prove helpful or successful if you have a severe communication problem.
- If you currently receive benefits or not. It’s better to have an in-person hearing, if you do, and have health insurance. Your benefits continue until the judge releases a written decision following the hearing.
Things to Consider to Hold a Telephone Hearing
It’s better to consider these points before agreeing to a telephone hearing:
While hearings are scheduled, there can be unavoidable delays. So be flexible and ready for delays in the hearing.
Conduct the hearing in someplace where you are alone and without interruptions. Besides, the judge will confirm if you are alone, and there’s no one in the room to prompt you.
It may also be difficult for the judge to hear you near a noisy construction site, busy highway, or airport. Privacy may be complex if the case involves a child or young person. Besides, you wouldn’t want them to overhear whatever you tell the judge.
Practically everyone uses cell phones now, and not landlines. Make sure you use a fully charged phone and that you aren’t in a ‘dead zone’ with phone connection problems. You may have to connect the phone to a power source because the hearing can take longer than an hour.
You must communicate appropriately by speaking loudly and clearly. Remember the hearing is recorded, so your answers need to be heard.
There are usually three to four people on the call, so tell the judge or others if you can’t hear them. Some people are naturally soft speakers or may be uncomfortable talking to on the phone.
Communication will also be difficult if you are hard of hearing. You will have to mention this before starting the call.
Why Do You Need a Burbank Social Security Benefits Lawyer?
You may wonder if you need to consult an attorney before a telephone hearing.
It’s better if you do. It’s somewhat intimidating to participate in a legal telephone hearing and talk to an unknown judge and people.
This is where a social security benefits attorney in Burbank can help.
They help you overcome this apprehensiveness and tell you something about the judge, like their questioning style, likes, and dislikes.
They can also help with your social security disability denials and appeals and help get you your required coverage.
Remember, telephone hearings are not mandatory. It’s only if you voluntarily agree to it will the hearing be conducted over the phone. Besides, you have the right to an in-person hearing if you aren’t happy with the SSA’s decision.