Oral hearing

As a rule, hearings by the Pension Appeal Board are conducted in writing. If the Board deems it necessary, or if a private party so requests, the Board must arrange an oral hearing. The execution of an oral hearing is governed by the regulations on legal proceedings in the Administrative Procedure Act.

The oral hearing may hear the parties, authorities, witnesses and experts, and may also accept other evidence. The hearing is mainly a procedure to supplement the document-based handling of a case. That is why it may be limited to cover only part of the case, to establish the views of the parties or to receive oral evidence.

Despite the request of a party, the Board can choose to decline to arrange an oral hearing if

  • the Board has obtained adequate evidence on significant facts, based on which the Board can solve the matter without leaving the Board in reasonable doubt as to the facts;
  • the facts can be established in some other way;
  • an oral hearing has already been arranged in the same matter; or
  • arranging an oral hearing is otherwise clearly unnecessary, considering the nature and significance of the matter for the party and the requirement of fair trial.

In principle, Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights ensures the party the right to an oral hearing unless it is deemed unnecessary for specific reasons. In its rulings, the European Court of Human Rights has taken a stand on the grounds under which the oral nature of a trial can be deviated from. In several of its rulings relating to social security, the Court has found it unnecessary for a national court to arrange an oral hearing despite the request of a party because it has been possible to solve the case based on written expert statements and other written material. These rulings have concerned social security benefits, the evidence of which has consisted of written medical statements submitted to the Court.

Link to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights: https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-76997%22]}

In the decision practices of the Insurance Court, arranging oral hearings have been considered distinctly unnecessary. For example, hearing the attending physician on the illnesses of a witness in a matter where the available documents have included an appropriate and, for the solving of the case, sufficiently comprehensive written medical statement, including the attending physician’s statement, is deemed unnecessary. The Insurance Court has also found it distinctly unnecessary to hear a witness in a matter where there is no disagreement and where the hearing would not contribute essential new information in terms of the evaluation of the appealed matter. Since applicants can present their views in writing, it is generally found unnecessary to arrange an oral hearing only to hear the applicant.

Processing stages

The applicant must present a request for an oral hearing in writing, and preferably already in the appeal. The party requesting an oral hearing must state why the oral hearing is required and what evidence they will present at the hearing. If necessary, the Pension Appeal Board will send a letter of inquiry in the matter.

The Board issues a decision on request for an oral hearing either in the context of the principal matter or as an interim decision concerning the matter. If the Board declines to arrange the requested oral hearing, the parties must be notified of that decision. The parties must be given the opportunity to submit additional written evidence at this time. Notification may be waived if the appeal is ruled inadmissible or rejected immediately, or if notification is manifestly unnecessary on some other grounds.

The Pension Appeal Board summons, in writing, the parties it deems necessary to be present at an oral hearing. The summons also includes information on pain of absence. The party or their representative is summoned to the oral hearing on pain of absence not preventing the handling or solving of the case. The applicant can be summoned to attend in person if it is necessary for the solving of the matter. In that case, the summons may be presented on pain of a fine in case of absence.

Handling an oral hearing

As a rule, an oral hearing is carried out in the premises of the Pension Appeal Board. It is attended by all members of the Board who participate in the solving of the case. The interested parties and any of their assistants may attend the whole hearing, except for during the Board’s deliberation.

Minutes of the oral hearing are drawn up, and the hearing is recorded. The Board continues handling the case after the oral hearing and issues its decision at a later point in time.

The oral hearing is arranged if it is assumed that new evidence that is essential for issuing the decision is likely to be brought forward at the hearing. As a rule, it is found unnecessary or inappropriate to arrange an oral hearing in medical cases since the accumulated documents usually include a sufficiently comprehensive and explicit medical statement on the disputed issue. The Pension Appeal Board does not carry out medical examinations.