Live, in-person Social Security disability claims hearings will start up again in the spring, the Social Security Administration says. For the past two years, due to the COVID pandemic, hearings have only been held remotely—by video or phone. The in-person hearings could resume as early as May 4 after the SSA reached an agreement with the union representing Social Security Administration Law Judges. The judges have held hundreds of thousands of virtual hearings since the start of the pandemic.
Judges may voluntarily schedule in person hearings starting in May and all judges are set to return to their offices beginning June 3. Hearings may continue to be a mix of in-person and virtual proceedings for the foreseeable future. The SSA says claimants who prefer an in-person hearing will be given that opportunity or they can still request a virtual hearing, if they have an underlying medical condition that puts them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, or may otherwise feel uncomfortable with travel or appearing in-person before a judge.
Additionally, the SSA plans to reopen its more than 1,200 field offices starting March 30. However, the date could change since union negotiations are ongoing and the situation with the pandemic continues to evolve.