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 E for a list of legal services offices. You can also bring a friend or relative for support. 106 C.M.R. § 701.350.
- DTA should schedule you for a face-to-face hearing unless you ask for a video or telephone hearing. For most people, a face-to-face hearing is 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 write your hearing request and at the hearing. 106 C.M.R. § 343.410.
- You should 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 look at your file (including the BEACON computer file) before the hearing (you need to make an appointment) and can use any papers or other information from your file as proof. 106 C.M.R. § 343.340. If your hearing is being conducted by telephone or video, you should insist on an opportunity to fax documents to the hearing officer.
- 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 and most telephone hearings take place at your local DTA office 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 it is current DTA policy not to schedule a telephone hearing unless you ask for one, and DTA does not currently schedule video hearings. If DTA schedules you for a telephone or video 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.
- 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).