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covid affect on hearings

Disability Benefits Hearings Affected by COVID-19

As we all know, life for the past 6-7 months has been drastically changed, and disability benefits have seen some changes as well. With the current COVID-19 outbreak, disability hearings have transitioned to over the phone hearings to protect and keep people safe. Majority of the offices are closed and or operating with limited personnel, so keeping these hearings over the phone was aimed to protect everyone’s health but also making these hearings easier for both parties to attend to.

With the over the phone hearings becoming the norm now, unfortunately a large majority of claimants are choosing to postpone their hearings as they wish to have theirs be an in person hearing. The reason is so that claimants feel they will not be able to present or have as strong of a case over the phone than being face to face and doing so. There is still a good amount that are choosing to go with the over the phone hearings as they feel they are in need of their benefits assistance immediately. 

One of the main arguments as to why these over the phone hearings are not as beneficial to claimants is that the judge is not able to physically get an understanding of someone’s condition. Them being able to be in the same room and have a better interpretation of their disability can drastically change a judges mind and their overall final verdict of their claim.

One of the new plans for the Social Security Administration is to implement “In person video hearings”. These are video calls that enable both sides to visibly see each other and communicate without having to be in the same room. This is obviously to maintain the safety aspect with the current COVID outbreak. This also leads to the question of whether or not the offices will be opening back up soon or whether this is just a new integration they have put in place to make the hearing process a bit easier to deal with. 

One of the biggest issues that comes across with video calls is that some people are so limited with their money that video calls may not be possible for them. They are trying to be granted their benefits for a reason and in certain scenarios some of them even have trouble finding a place to conduct a phone/video hearing. If they are not able to do either of these then the judge will have no problem not granting them benefits. 

If you are however to choose for a video hearing, it is still recommended and greatly beneficial to come prepared with the proper representation. Just because you are not in person for your hearing, does not mean the importance of legal representation is thrown out the window. Having an attorney on your side during a legal process helps to smooth out any issues, paperwork or documents that may be needed to help create your best claim.
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