Video Teleconferencing Helping Reduce Vast Backlog of Cases
You've been denied Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You've appealed. You wait to hear from the Social Security Administration (SSA) about when your hearing will be. Then you wait some more. And some more.
Just a few years ago, those attempting to get a hearing in front of an administrative law judge could wait over 3 years before the case was heard. While that wait time has been reduced, it can still be a lengthy process; in 2012 the average Cincinnati area applicant finally had his or her hearing after waiting approximately 14 months. Currently 2 million people are waiting to hopefully receive benefits from Social Security.
SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue recently said his top goal was to reduce the backlog of cases. To that end, SSA is promoting video hearings. A video hearing is mostly identical to regular in-person hearings, but takes place with the applicant and attorney talking to the judge via a large television screen. Everyone can see each other and everyone else in the room, such as the applicant's attorney and any expert witnesses in the room with the judge. The video hearing takes place in a nearby SSA office of the applicant, while the judge could be on the other side of the country. You do not have to agree to a video hearing.
There are several downsides to video hearings:
- The judge is at a remote location.
- Communication via video conference is awkward. It is difficult to make eye contact or be as persuasive as during an in-person hearing.
- Sometimes there are technical problems with the audio or video.
- The judge will be unfamiliar to everyone and will not have heard of your doctors or hospitals.
Preparing for the Hearing
No matter whether it is a traditional hearing or a video hearing, a few things can help speed up the hearing wait time and make sure that everything goes well when the day finally arrives.
It is important to contact an attorney early in the process. An attorney can prepare for the trial in advance, and will have time to gather all of the medical evidence and carefully read your file. You should attend your hearing and arrive promptly. If you can't make the hearing, it will likely be rescheduled months later assuming you have a valid excuse. Notify your attorney if you change your address or telephone number.
After a hearing, it takes about 30 to 60 days before you'll recieve the judge's written decision regarding your benefits claim.