Social Security Wants to Conduct My Disability Hearing by Video?

Posted February 13, 2015 by Premier Disability Services, LLC® The majority of claimants waiting for a disability hearing have most likely received a letter from their hearing office stating that Social Security’s (SSA) rules on conducting hearings via video teleconferencing have changed.   Hearings conducted using video teleconferencing (VTC) allow the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the claimant to appear that the hearing from different locations.  During a VTC hearing, the claimant will be able to see and communicate with the ALJ from a different location using a color television monitor.  The ALJ will have the same capabilities from his or her location.

As the caseload for ALJs increases, SSA has begun to utilize VTC hearings more frequently to cope with the limited amount of staff at the hearing offices. SSA notes that by accepting a VTC hearing a claimant may very well experience less of a wait time before their hearing is scheduled, and they may not have to travel as far for their hearing once it is scheduled.

At first glance, this all sounds very well and good. Why not?  Who would want to wait longer to get the opportunity to tell the Judge why they cannot work because of their conditions? The common belief is that the sooner a claimant gets to the hearing, the sooner they will be awarded.

It is critical to remember that a VTC hearing is not always in a claimant’s best interest.  At the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie: our own data shows that Judges are approximately 20% less likely to award a case following a video hearing than an in-person hearing. When given the chance to make this critical decision, we advise our clients 100% of the time that it is best to have their case heard in-person.  The fact that the person making the decision (the Judge) will be right in front of the claimant and will be able to read their mannerisms and expressions only help to establish the credibility of the claimant’s testimony.  Of course, it would be more convenient for everyone if we had a hearing much sooner. But the risk of receiving an unfavorable decision due to a VTC greatly outweighs the benefit.

Claimants have the right to object to a VTC hearing and appear before a Judge in person.  SSA gives the claimant 30 days to submit a formal objection to use a VTC at their hearing.   The decision whether to agree to a VTC hearing or to object is one each claimant must make based on their own individual circumstances.  However, it could be the difference between an award and a denial of the claim.  As such, it is always prudent to speak with an experienced representative prior to making this decision.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®