I-2-0-70.Hearing Office Service Area

Last Update: 8/29/14 (Transmittal I-2-115)

A. General

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 (RH) for claimants residing in that area. In general, hearings will be held within 75 miles of the claimant's home.

NOTE:

Under certain circumstances, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can reimburse a claimant, representative, or un-subpoenaed witness for travel expenses if the distance between the hearing site and the person's residence or office, whichever he or she travels from, is more than 75 miles. See Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-3-13 for more information about reimbursement. For reimbursement issues for a claimant who does not reside in the United States, see HALLEX I-2-0-72 E.

B. Screening the RH To Determine Jurisdiction

When an HO receives an 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 has jurisdiction.

C. Claimant Changes Residences While RH Is Pending

If the claimant changes residences while a RH is pending, and the claimant has objected to appearing at a hearing by video teleconferencing (VTC), see:

  • HALLEX I-2-0-21 if the case has not yet been assigned to an administrative law judge (ALJ); or

  • HALLEX I-2-3-11 if the case has been assigned to an ALJ.

If the claimant did not object to appearing by VTC and the claimant notifies SSA of a change in residence address that falls under the jurisdiction of another HO, the HO will generally not transfer the case. Rather, using the instructions in HALLEX I-2-3-10 A.1., the ALJ will schedule the claimant's appearance by VTC whenever possible. When an ALJ determines an in person hearing may be appropriate and the claimant would need to travel more than 75 miles to a hearing site in the HO's jurisdiction, the ALJ will discuss with the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge whether a case transfer is appropriate.

NOTE:

A change in mailing address is not sufficient to establish a change of residence (e.g., a change of address to a P.O. Box does not establish a change of residence).

In most instances, an HO is not required to develop a residence change issue if the claimant does not submit evidence establishing a change of residence. However, if a change in mailing address suggests that a claimant may need to travel more than 75 miles to the hearing site, the HO will usually contact the claimant or representative to verify the residence address. The HO staff will document the contact on a Report of Contact and associate the document with the file as an exhibit.

D. Claimant Requests Transfer of RH for Reasons Not Related to Change in Residence

If, for reasons other than a change in residence, a claimant requests a change in the place of hearing to a location in another HO's jurisdiction, the ALJ will evaluate the request using the good cause procedures in HALLEX I-2-3-12 C.

NOTE:

In evaluating the issue, ALJs must consider whether the claimant objected to appearing at a hearing via VTC. If the claimant did not object to appearing in this manner, it may be more efficient in some instances to conduct the hearing via VTC.