Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Future of SSDI Hearings

I recently had a hearing were the claimant was in one state the ALJ was on video from another state and I flew in from NJ to be with the client in their state. After the hearing I started to think about the future of Social Security Disability hearings. The Social Security Administration will soon start a pilot program that will allow lawyers to have the client at there office for a video hearing with an ALJ who is at his hearing office. Will we one day see a time when all the different players in hearing are in different states all connected by video conference? I think we will and it may happen sooner than we think. One difficulty SSA has in getting hearings scheduled is when an VE, ME and or interpreter is needed. SSA is already using interpreters, VEs and MEs on the phone on occasion. You also see many claimants who are hiring lawyers in other states for their SSDI claims. So it appears logical that one day we may have hearings were the lawyer, claimant, VE, ME, interpreter and ALJ all all in a different state brought together for a hearing by video conference. This idea may scare many people that the process will become too impersonal and that this could disadvantage the claimant. On the flip side if it could cut down very significantly on how long a claimant has to wait to have a hearing it may be worth doing in some situations. As I have posted about before SSA has already set up a National Hearing office to deal with extremely long wait times of certain hearing offices by video hearings from that office. For people waiting for hearings in some areas of the country for well over two years the idea might not seem so bad if it can cut there wait time down in half. Who knows, but it seems more and more possible if not probable that this could be in SSA's future.