I-2-0-70.Hearing Office Service Area
Last Update: 5/24/11 (Transmittal I-2-81)
Each hearing office (HO) has jurisdiction over a designated geographic area referred to as the HO"s “service area.” The HO will generally process all requests for hearing (RHs) for claimants residing in that area. In general, hearings will be held within 75 miles of the claimant"s home.
SSA may only reimburse a claimant, representative, or unsubpoenaed witness for travel expenses if the distance between the site where the hearing is held and the person"s residence or office, whichever he or she travels from, is more than 75 miles.
Please refer to I-2-3-10, Scheduling Hearings, for additional information regarding representative reimbursements. Although a representative may be eligible to request reimbursement based on this 75-mile requirement, this does not necessarily mean the representative will be reimbursed.
B. Screening RH To Determine Jurisdiction
When an HO receives a RH, the HO staff will screen the RH to determine if the HO has jurisdiction, i.e., whether the claimant's address is in the geographic area the HO serves. If the HO does not have jurisdiction, the HO staff will forward the RH to the HO that does.
If the claimant moves out of the hearing office jurisdiction area while the RH is pending at the hearing level, the RH should be processed by the HO with jurisdiction over the claimant's new address.
C. Changing Place of Hearing
A claimant may request a change in the place of hearing that would result in the transfer of the case to another HO. However, these requests should not be routinely granted. Due to the large volume of cases in HOs, routine changes of the place of hearing would be disruptive and could adversely affect service to other claimants. Also, assuming a claimant does not object, changes to the place of hearing are often unnecessary due to the availability of video teleconferencing. See 20 CFR 404.936(e) & 416.1436(e) (68 FR 5218, Feb. 3, 2003, as amended at 75 FR 39160, July 8, 2010).
An Administrative Law Judge may change the place of hearing upon a claimant"s written or oral request if the claimant has good cause for making the request, or on the ALJ"s own initiative if the change would promote the efficient administration of the hearing process and ensure the claimant a full and fair hearing. Examples of circumstances that could warrant a change to the place of hearing may include:
A witness, who will testify to facts material to the case that cannot be otherwise obtained, is unable to travel to the place set for the hearing, but would be able to travel to another place if the hearing were held there.
Transportation is not readily available for the claimant to travel to the place set for the hearing.
The claimant lives closer to another hearing office.
The claimant is confined in a prison or other institution and reasonable arrangements cannot be made to transport the claimant to the place set for the hearing. Under these circumstances, hearings may be held at the place of confinement or through the use of video teleconferencing technology. Hearings may also be conducted by telephone for claimants held in a place of confinement if certain requirements are met and the claimant affirmatively requests a hearing by telephone. See I-2-3-10, Scheduling Hearings.
If an ALJ changes the place of hearing to a location that would be in the jurisdiction of a hearing office within the same region, he or she must notify all parties and the receiving HO of the change, along with the reasons for the change. HO management should contact the receiving HO management prior to transferring and mailing the claim file so that the receiving HO will be aware of the change and will be expecting the claim file. If a change in the place of hearing would result in a transfer of the case to another region, the regional offices of both hearing offices must also be notified of the transfer through appropriate management channels.