As any one knows who has filed a claim for disability benefits, the wait time for a disability hearing can be very long. SSA recognizes that some of its 142 hearing offices across the nation are busier than others. For that reason, it has begun to reassign cases from the very busy hearing offices to less busy hearing offices. Those administrative law judges to whom cases are assigned from distant hearing office must not only review and prepare the cases but also hear those cases.
Since travel time by the newly assigned administrative law judges takes more time, SSA has set up hearing rooms equipped with video systems that allow a judge to see and hear the claimant in a hearing office close to the claimant’s home while the judge is at her hearing office in another state. Witnesses called by the administrative law judge appear in the same room with the claimant, or in the hearing room where the administrative law judge is located or by telephone from a third location.
SSA does not force a disability claimant to choose a video hearing. In fact, all video hearing notices come with a notice informing the claimant that he has the right to have an “in person” hearing with the administrative law judge. Does the outcome of the disability hearing change because it was a video hearing? In my experience, the fact that a social security disability hearing is conducted by video rather than in person has no bearing on the ultimate outcome of the case. The only thing that a video hearing does is provide a way to make the case go more quickly. While other attorneys opinions may differ, I encourage my clients to allow their hearing by video when that option is offered.