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Videoconferencing: state of the art technology for SSDI hearings

In our increasingly “wired” world, more people than ever before are taking advantage of technological advances that give people the ability to connect across the country or around the world. Services like Skype, Google+, FaceTime, WebEx and others allow users to both see and hear one another in real time, and have become popular in the business world and for the general public.

Videoconferencing in action

Another area where such videoconferencing technologies are being successfully implemented: by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for the hearing of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications before administrative law judges. Video hearings allow disability applicants to get a hearing quicker, involve less travel time for both the applicant and any witnesses or experts, and may result in a more timely decision.

While videoconference hearings have been held for several years now, they are on the upswing; more than 150,000 video hearings were held in 2012, and year-over-year growth is expected for 2013. The SSA is currently considering a proposal wherein they will automatically assign video hearings to some applicants, and give judges the authority to ask for telephone hearings in emergencies or other extraordinary circumstances. Under the new rule, the applicant will have the ability to decline a videoconference hearing and appear directly before a judge instead, but the hope is that transitioning to more video hearings will speed up the wait time for benefits, clear up the court docket and save much-needed operating funds.

The typical hearing process

Whether an SSDI or SSI hearing takes place in a courtroom or via videoconference, the basic process remains the same. An administrative law judge is in charge of the proceedings, and he or she has the ability to ask questions of the applicant and any witnesses who can provide reliable information about the extent of the applicant’s disability.

The judge can refer to medical records submitted by the applicant when presiding over the hearing, and can ask questions of any medical or vocational experts in attendance. This is done to give the judge a better idea of the level to which the disability affects the applicant’s life and whether the condition is debilitating enough to prevent the person from finding some form of gainful employment.

Making your case

It is important to make the strongest case possible that you deserve disability benefits, no matter if your SSDI or SSI hearing is held in person or through a videoconference at one of the SSA’s National Hearing Centers (dedicated offices for the purpose of SSDI and SSI-related hearings and services). This not only means having comprehensive medical documentation, but also being able to prove to the judge that your condition is so debilitating that it makes it impossible for you to work.

That task is a daunting one, and nearly two-thirds of initial disability applications are denied. You have the right to have representation and assistance while you are preparing a disability application, at hearings or through an appeal of a denial of benefits. If you need help and want a knowledgeable advocate at your side while navigating the disability process, find an experienced Social Security Disability attorney in your area.

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