TN 17 (11-21)

DI 33025.085 Conducting Disability Hearings by Telephone

A. General policy for conducting disability hearings by telephone

The preferred methods for conducting hearings are in-person or by the use of video teleconferencing (VTC) equipment. See DI 33025.080 Using Video teleconferencing (VTC) Equipment to Conduct Hearings. A disability hearing officer (DHO) may conduct a hearing by telephone only when extraordinary circumstances prevent the beneficiary (or recipient) from appearing at the hearing in-person or by VTC.

1. Extraordinary circumstances

Extraordinary circumstances are generally limited to incarceration, institutionalization, natural disasters, pandemics, or very unusual circumstances directly related to a beneficiary's (or recipient’s) impairments. A beneficiary (or recipient) generally does not have an opportunity to object to appearing by telephone. The beneficiary (or recipient) may object as noted in B. below or when specified in emergency instructions directly related to the extraordinary circumstance. Under these situations, if the beneficiary (or recipient) does not agree to appear by telephone, we will delay scheduling or will postpone the hearing until we can offer another option. In that circumstance, follow local procedures as applicable or the DHO may contact the regional office for guidance about how to best proceed.

2. Conducting a hearing by telephone

If a DHO conducts a hearing by telephone, he or she must ensure that all hearing participants, including, as applicable, the beneficiary (or recipient), an appointed representative, an interpreter, and witnesses, can participate in the hearing appropriately. See DI 23040.001 DDS: Interpreters for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) or Individuals Requiring Language Assistance. See B. below for beneficiaries (or recipients) who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Hearings conducted by telephone must follow the same format as traditional, in-person hearings. The initial continuing disability review cessation notice informs the individual of procedural rights for the hearing. The beneficiary (or recipient) has the right to:

  • appoint a representative,

  • review the record prior to the hearing,

  • submit additional evidence and request assistance with obtaining additional evidence,

  • present witnesses, and

  • question any witnesses.

B. Telephone hearings for beneficiaries (or recipients) who are deaf or hard of hearing

Before a DHO may schedule a beneficiary (or recipient) who is deaf or hard of hearing to appear by telephone, the beneficiary (or recipient) must agree to appear in that manner.

1. Beneficiary (or recipient) does not agree to a telephone hearing

If the beneficiary or recipient does not agree to appear by telephone, we will delay scheduling or will postpone the hearing until we can offer another option. In that circumstance, follow local procedures as applicable or the DHO may contact the regional office for guidance about how to best proceed.

2. Beneficiary (or recipient) agrees to a telephone hearing

If the beneficiary (or recipient) agrees to a telephone hearing, appropriate staff must document such agreement in the claim file and the DHO must confirm the beneficiary’s (or recipient’s) agreement to appear by telephone at the beginning of the hearing.

NOTE:The agency will not provide hardware, software, video connection, or internet access, which may be necessary to allow the beneficiary (or recipient) to use the services outlined below.

3. Interpreter service

The DHO must also follow the procedures outlined below based on the choice of interpreter service:

a. American Sign Language (ASL) via Video Relay Services (VRS)

If the beneficiary (or recipient) or appointed representative indicates that the beneficiary (or recipient) prefers to use an ASL Interpreter on the day of the hearing, the beneficiary (or recipient) may connect to the hearing via VRS. VRS allows the individual to communicate with an interpreter via ASL using video conferencing equipment while the interpreter communicates what is signed via telephone.

b. Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS)

If the beneficiary (or recipient) or appointed representative indicates that the beneficiary (or recipient) prefers another form of TRS, the beneficiary (or recipient) has the option of joining the hearing via the TRS form of his or her choice. TRS provides several options for communication assistance, depending on the individual’s needs, including:

  • Text-to-Voice TTY-based TRS,

  • Voice Carry Over,

  • Hearing Carry Over,

  • Speech-to-Speech Relay Service,

  • Shared Non-English Language Relay Services,

  • Captioned Telephone Service,

  • Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service, and

  • Internet Protocol Relay Service.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0433025085
DI 33025.085 - Conducting Disability Hearings by Telephone - 11/08/2021
Batch run: 11/08/2021
Rev:11/08/2021