Early in March Social Security made it be known that they would once again allow hearing requests to be dismissed out of hand if the claim is not made in a timely manner or if the claimant fails to appear for the scheduled hearing. This decision reverses the temporary suspension of that policy which was implemented in October 2020 in acknowledgement of the issues caused by the COVID 19 pandemic.

Hearing Requests are the second step in the appeals process for those dealing with denials of claims or termination of their benefits and can be made if a request for reconsideration is denied. The hearing request allows the claimant to have the case heard again before an administrative law judge who had no part in the original denial decision. In contrast to the allowances made in the past six month claimants will now have to submit the request for a hearing within 60 days of receiving the denial letter. If the claimant files the request but does not respond to a notice of the hearing within 30 days SSA are still obliged to attempt further contact to establish why there has been no reply. If those attempts fail to get a response then the hearing can be dismissed unless the claimant can then provide a just cause for the lack of a response. Similarly, if the claimant agrees to the time and date of the meeting but then does not attend the case can be dismissed at that point unless a just cause can be provided.

Although the reversion to the dismissal policy may seem a premature decision to those of us who are still receiving mail that was evidently sent at the tail end of 2020, there is some consolation in the regulations that oblige SSA to make several attempts to contact claimants before a case is dismissed, and there remains that safety net of proving just cause for a non-appearance or lack of response.