The Verdict on Telephone Testimony
Previously, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) regulations on telephone testimony were buried in the Hearings, Appeals, and Litigation Law Manual (HALLEX), a sub-regulatory SSA publication. However, in response to an obvious need – and a number of requests and concerns from claimant representatives, the SSA has issued new, more accessible regulations dealing specifically with telephone testimony.
In short, the SSA will now allow administrative law judges (ALJs) to schedule telephone testimony by expert witnesses, such as medical examiners (MEs) and vocational experts (VEs) provided that there is advance notice. It will also allow the claimant and/or other parties involved in the hearing to request the opportunity to testify by phone if the ALJ finds that those making such a request are doing so because extraordinary circumstances prevent them from testifying in person or by video.
The SSA’s new rule specifies that the hearing notice must state the mode of testimony of each witness, be it in person, by video, or via telephone. Furthermore, a claimant may object to a witness testifying via telephone; if this is the case, the ALJ will decide – in writing or at the hearing – the appropriate mode of testimony for that particular witness, as the new regulations do not require expert witnesses to appear in person or by video in response to a claimant’s timely objection.
The SSA’s new regulations on telephone testimony went into effect on June 20, 2013.