A Social Security Disability hearing is offered to individuals who have applied for SSDI benefits when their application has initially been denied. A first disability denial is relatively common, necessitating individuals to gather more paperwork or evidence according to comments made in the denial letter. In many cases, individuals may need to attend a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
Options for Hearings
A disability hearing is often scheduled or assigned at a specific location known as a hearing court. The hearing court is not at the same location as your local Social Security office, which often requires that individuals to travel hundreds of miles to the location on the date specified by the Social Security Administration. If an individual misses such an appointment, (and it may often take up to a year or more to receive a hearing date) they must start the process all over again.
In order to help reduce the backlog of individuals waiting for a hearing at a physical location, the Social Security Disability hearing may now take place via video or teleconferencing. Videoconferencing of a disability hearing follows the same format as a physical hearing court format.
As in a physical hearing, the claimant, their lawyer and vocational experts, doctors or other witnesses may be present. Via a large screen and teleconferencing equipment, the judge "virtually" presides over the hearing. Regardless of where the judge is physically located, he or she is able to communicate, watch activities of you, your disability lawyer, and other witnesses during the conference.
Telecommunication technology also enables the judge to control zoom focus and watch particular people in a closed and secure environment. The Administrative Law Judge will also have the opportunity and options to view different parties present through different angles.
When testifying at a disability hearing via teleconferencing, claimants are encouraged to behave in the same manner they would in a physical hearing:
- Tell the truth
- Refrain from exaggeration of pain levels or symptoms
- Adequately describe a day's typical activities
- Dress appropriately
Benefits and Drawbacks
One of the greatest benefits of the videoconferencing of a disability hearing is that hearing dates are set sooner and the location of the disability hearing is often closer to a claimant's location. Videoconferencing hearings are also beneficial to those whose current medical condition makes traveling longer distances difficult or uncomfortable.
However, some claimants may feel uncomfortable with teleconferencing, as they're not actually able to speak to a judge face-to-face. The feeling of being "watched" from a remote location also makes many individuals feel like Big Brother is watching them.
Video hearings and traditional hearings are both performed in a real-time environment and both allow representation by Social Security attorneys at all times during the hearing, including cross-examination of witnesses.
Most Social Security Disability applicants are more than happy to speed up the process when it comes to disability hearing scheduling, and video hearings may be the way to go. Regardless of whether you opt for a video hearing or a traditional face-to-face hearing, the outcome is not determined by the format of the hearing, but on the veracity of your case.