The hearing is your last chance to make sure DTA has the facts supporting your position, including any documents.
- Try to get a legal advocate to represent you at the hearing or give you advice about representing yourself. 106 C.M.R. § 343.150. See Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices for a list of legal services offices. You can also bring a friend or relative for support. 106 C.M.R. § 701.350.
- DTA will schedule a telephone hearing. For many people, a telephone hearing is more convenient but a face-to-face hearing may be better. It is easier to understand what is happening at a face-to-face hearing, easier to handle documents, and easier for the hearing officer to determine who is telling the truth.
- If you need an interpreter, you should ask for one when you make your hearing request and at the hearing. 106 C.M.R. § 343.410.
- You should send bring any proof you have. This includes proof you did not have before. 106 C.M.R. §§ 343.410, 343.500(A). You or your advocate can ask DTA to send you papers and information from your file. 106 C.M.R. § 343.340. If your hearing is being conducted by telephone, you should insist on an opportunity to send documents to the hearing officer. Send the documents to your DTA Connect and ask the DTA hearing division or the hearing officer to them from your case record.
- You can bring witnesses. You can also get a paper ordering a witness to come to your hearing; this paper is called a “subpoena.” 106 C.M.R. § 343.360. Talk with a legal advocate about how to do this.
Face-to face hearings at your local DTA office take place in a separate room. Only the people who need to be there are allowed in – the DTA worker(s), you, your representative (if any), any witnesses, and the hearing officer. Everyone must testify under “oath or affirmation.” The hearing is tape-recorded. 106 C.M.R. §§ 343.450, 343.500, 343.550.
If you believe that DTA is using evidence that is unfair or unreliable – for example, an accusation from an unidentified person – tell the hearing officer that you “object.” Objecting may make the hearing officer think twice about relying on this information. Also, if you lose the hearing and appeal to court, the court can consider whether the hearing officer made a mistake by admitting the evidence you objected to.
If you are not receiving benefits, you can ask the hearing officer to decide your case right away with an “interim” (not final) decision.
- DTA regulations allow it to schedule your hearing by telephone or video, 106 C.M.R. § 343.120, but DTA does not routinely offer video hearings. During the pandemic, DTA is only holding telephone hearings. If DTA schedules you for a telephone hearing and you want a face-to-face hearing, call the Division of Hearings right away (617-348-5321 or 800-882-2017) and say you want a face-to-face hearing. If DTA won’t give you a face-to-face hearing, be sure to say on the record of the hearing that you want a face-to-face hearing. You can also ask DTA for a video hearing if you prefer.
- The hearing officer must take evidence and decide the issues “de novo” (anew) based on what is presented at the hearing. The eligibility date is the date all eligibility conditions were met regardless of when the evidence was submitted.
- If you think the interpreter is not interpreting correctly, object to the hearing and ask for a different interpreter. DTA Field Operations Memo 2008-16 (Apr. 1, 2008).