Video Conferencing Does Not Do Much to Improve Social Security Disability Hearings

April 15,2008
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I read with interest a report that conducting video hearings is a new measure to help reduce the backlog of claims pending a Social Security disability hearing.
I have been participating in video hearings for a number of years, and have found that the effort to farm out hearing to other offices and do them by video has had mixed success vis a vis the hearings backlog. The problem is that very often, cases get shipped from one hearing office to another where each time they are put in the end of the queue for a hearing. This means that a case that sat in office #1 for 8 months and was then shifted to office #2 to help ease backlogs in office #1 will be find itself behind newer cases that were referred to case #2 for a ‘live’ hearing.
Furthermore, nothing is necessarily gained using a video hearing for claimants who have difficulty traveling, since these hearing can still only be conducted at a Social Security office set up to conduct these hearings.
Finally, the technology for video hearings has still not evolved to a point where the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) can, in fact, effectively get the sense of a claimant by using the pan and tilt features of the video appliance. In my experience, the ALJ’s camera is set and there are never any adjustments made to close in on the claimant during the hearing.
In my humble opinion, the benefits of video hearings continue to be outweighed by the deficits. I know of many ALJs who prefer a live hearing because they feel that something is very much missing from the video hearing.
I tend to agree with them.
Gabe Hermann