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Social Security Disability Video Hearings Increase

2014 March 14
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by Steve Perrigo

More people than ever before attended a video hearing last year while seeking Social Security disability benefits. The number of video hearings increased to 179,308 in fiscal year 2013, more than double the 86,320 video hearings in FY 2009, according to Allsup’s review of data released by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in its Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2015. This was an increase of nearly 17 percent from 153,592 video hearings the previous year (FY 2012).

“Video hearings are one of the methods Social Security is using to help with the backlog of SSDI claims,” said David Bueltemann, Allsup manager of senior claimant representatives. “Video conferencing can be more convenient for the claimant, if he or she lives in a remote area,” Bueltemann said. “And it saves travel time for the judge, who then can have more time to hear and decide cases.”

Most hearings are still held in person before administrative law judges (ALJs). But Social Security is increasing its ability to perform hearings through video conferencing, including using video at National Hearing Centers. The SSA has five of these centers in Albuquerque, Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis, and Falls Church, Va.

During a video hearing, the ALJ, claimant and representative interact with each other using videoconferencing equipment. The entire hearing usually lasts about an hour, and often includes testimony from the claimant, vocational experts, and medical experts. It’s rare that the judge announces the disability decision at the conclusion of the hearing, as decisions are normally issued within two months of the hearing.

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