Agoraphobia is an irrational and often disabling fear of being out in public. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people with agoraphobia stop going into situations or places in which they've previously had a panic attack in anticipation of it happening again, and avoid places where they feel immediate escape might be difficult. Some agoraphobes cannot travel beyond their safety zones without suffering severe anxiety.
The Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law Manual (“HALLEX”) is a compilation of rules from the Social Security Administration's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The HALLEX is used by administrative law judges (“ALJs”) when administering hearings and appeals for people seeking reviews of their applications for disability benefits. HALLEX procedures and policy statements govern hearings.
HALLEX I-2-3-10 concerns scheduling hearings. Among other things, HALLEX I-2-3-10 provides that an ALJ will consider conducting the hearing at the claimant's request by telephone. Specifically, HALLEX I-2-3-10 notes that, “the regulations permit the claimant or any party to the hearing to request to appear at the hearing by telephone. The ALJ will grant the request to appear by telephone if the ALJ determines that extraordinary circumstances prevent the claimant or other party from appearing in person.”
The ALJ granted my request to have the claimant appear by telephone due to her agoraphobia. I had the claimant’s husband appear in person to testify, and he explained that that his wife did not sound terribly anxious precisely because she was at home, but that her condition would significantly deteriorate if she were outside that safe zone. The ALJ understood, and issued a fully favorable decision today approving her for disability benefits.