In addition to phone hearings, Social Security will offer the opportunity for an online video hearing using the Microsoft Teams platform starting this fall. The new free service will reportedly allow applicants and their representatives to participate in the hearing from anywhere as long as they have access to a camera-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer.
The stable and secure online platform lets the Social Security judge see and interact with applicants and their representatives just like in-person, while maintaining privacy of the claimant’s information. Other hearing experts like medical or vocational experts, can participate as well.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of finding new ways to serve the public,” said Commissioner of Social Security Andrew Saul. “For over a decade, the agency has used video hearings to get applicants their hearing decisions sooner. This advancement builds on that effort, making it easier and more convenient to attend a hearing remotely, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. To continue to ensure all participants’ safety, we expect online video hearings and telephone hearings will be the only two hearing options for the foreseeable future.”
Social Security has reportedly been conducting appeal hearings with Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) by phone only since March, while offices remain closed to the public to protect the health and safety of the public and employees. The agency’s ALJs have reportedly held more than 180,000 phone hearings since March, allowing the agency to continue to deliver critical customer service.
For the new online video hearings, whether the device is a laptop, smartphone, or tablet on either iPhone or Android, people will reportedly experience a clear picture and audio of the ALJ and their representative during their hearing.
For updates on the implementation and expansion of the new hearing service, and other Social Security information, visit the agency’s COVID-19 web page.