Because you are disabled.

File for disability benefits.

Appeal your case.

How you presented your initial application was the best you could do at that time given what you knew and were told.

But, if you were not successful, appeal (1) because you are disabled and (2) because you can improve on your presentation.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Video Teleconferencing Hearings.

How to Avoid Video Teleconferencing Hearings.

Effective June 25, 2014, the Social Security Administration has implemented new Video Teleconferencing rules regarding the scheduling of hearings before Administrative Law Judges (ALJs).

The hearings office, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, will assign claimants to hearings by Video Teleconferencing to allow Social Security “to administer our programs more efficiently.”

In most cases, claimants must object to a Video Teleconferencing hearing as opposed to an in-person hearing within 30 days after receiving a notice of a scheduled Video Teleconferencing hearing.  Social Security requires “good cause” to be established to allow objection to a scheduled Video Teleconferencing after the 30 day period expires or if the claimant has had a change of residential address.

Timely objections to a scheduled Video Teleconferencing hearings will allow the claimant to have an in-person hearing with one exception—that being, if the claimant moves to a different residence while his hearing is pending.  The rule states:

“If we receive a timely objection, or we find there was good cause for missing the deadline, we will schedule the claimant for an in person hearing, with one limited exception. If a claimant moves to a different residence while his or her request for a hearing is pending, we will determine whether the claimant will appear in person or by video teleconferencing, even if the claimant previously objected to appearing by video teleconferencing.”  (Emphasis added.)

Why you should avoid Video Teleconferencing Hearings.

Except for claimants who would have to travel a long distance or whose medical condition makes an in-person hearing burdensome, most claimants would do better at an in-person hearing than a video hearing.

1.  Social Security controls the video. 

2.  The ALJ controls how the video is made: how much of the time and how closely the video camera is focused on the claimant, on the witnesses, on the representative and on the ALJ.

3.  Social Security is not likely to use professional quality video cameras or lighting equipment or experienced videographers.  Most likely, a “web camera” will be operated by a “hearing monitor” or by a Social Security employee and will use available light in an ALJ hearing room.

4.  In ordinary communication, it is helpful for people to observe and listen to the people with whom they are communicating during the entire time they are communicating with each other.  

5.  Exceptional video quality is required to capture subtle facial expressions, shifts in eyes, body language and gestures to give people clues as to how one party is receiving or sending communication to the other. 

6.  In-person meetings allow the claimants to see whether the ALJ is paying attention or scrolling on his computer or shuffling papers.

7.  A Video Teleconferencing hearing may inhibit claimants from freely discussing sensitive and emotional issues.

8.  A Video Teleconferencing hearing is a first meeting for the claimant and ALJ – they ordinarily have never met before and cannot draw on prior, personal knowledge of each other in this one-time and limited-time event that may determine whether a claimant receives disability benefits.

See rules at:
79 Fed. Reg. 35926 (June 25, 2014).

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