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The Office of Hearing Operations
The best way to be prepared for anything is to know as much about it as possible. In this case, we feel that you should understand who is involved in the hearing. How most hearings work and how to try and get ready for it. We don’t want there to be any surprises on hearing day.
The Office of Hearing Operations (OHO)
Under normal circumstances, the hearing would be held at the Office of Hearing Operations (OHO). This office might be in its own building, or there might be other businesses there as well. At the OHO, there are two main groups if Social Security Employees. One group is the judges. The other group is made up of hearing assistants. These folks help the judges by scheduling hearings, preparing the files and recording the actual hearings. They are good people to get to know because they are very close to the judges, and they usually know a great deal about your life.
Social Security will try to schedule your hearing at an OHO near you. Sometimes, however, there are too many hearings scheduled at your local OHO, and Social Security has to assign your case to another OHO. This is inconvenient but there isn’t much you can do about it. Sometimes the judges will “visit” your OHO for a week or two. Sometimes, SSA will offer to have your hearing conducted by video, especially if you live too far from an OHO. These video hearings are becoming more and more popular.
On the day of your hearing, make plans to leave extra time to get there. Be certain that you know exactly where the OHO is, and plan your trip carefully. Many clients have a tough time traveling or taking public transportation. If this sounds like you, be sure to plan you trip out ahead of time and leave several hour early. Even though you may have to wait at the hearing office, this is better than missing your appointment and having to reschedule. You might even try to get a friend or relative to accompany you to the hearing office. They might not be in the actual hearing with you, but at least they can make sure you get there on time.
Social Security may help you to pay for some of the cost of going to the hearing, especially if you live more than 75 miles away. This is one of the things you can work on while you are waiting for the hearing date. Ask Social Security what types of things they will pay for, and what proof (such as receipts) you will need to be paid back.
When you get to the OHO of the day of the hearing, you should notice a waiting area. Somewhere, nearby there should be a receptionist. As soon as you arrive, tell the receptionist who you are. If you are expecting to meet your representative, look around the room and find him or her. If you are by yourself, get comfortable in the waiting room and listen carefully for your name to be called. You might want to bring something to read in case there is a delay.
Each OHO has several rooms set aside for hearings. These are not the big, fancy courtrooms that you see on Law & Order. In fact, they are usually pretty small and boring. They have a desk for the judge, a table or two at which you can sit. There will be microphones, but don’t let these throw you off. They are just there to record the proceedings.
In our next blog, we will discuss the different types of people that will be present at your hearing.