Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Recent meeting with SSA on pilot program

This past Monday a meeting was held at SSA with the lawyers and representatives that are part of the new pilot program that will let representatives access the files at the hearing stage on-line. I am in this program and will update as to how the program is going every so often. If you want to read more on the Social Security Disability Pilot program see my website blog. One thing I was surprised to learn was that the Social Security Administration is ready to allow lawyers and representatives to hold hearings at their offices. I hope to be able to hold hearings at my office in the near future. It requires that the law firm buy the equipment and be checked by SSA for security. This should be very beneficial to claimants, lawyers and SSA in a number of ways. For claimants who live far from the closest ODAR office they will be able to have their hearing by video at their lawyers office which in many cases is closer to the claimant and a more comfortable environment. For lawyers, the advantage is they may be able to schedule more hearings even at different ODARs for the same day. It will also allow lawyers to spend more time at their office because they will not have to spend any time traveling to and from a hearing. For example, the hearing office I go to for most of my hearings is an hour away. When I have hearings I often do not get to spend any time at my office on those days. I plan to have the capability to hold hearings in my office in the near future. For SSA, the advantages are that a ALJ can hold hearings in several locations from their own hearing room thus allowing them to schedule more hearings. This does not mean that all hearings will be held from layers offices since the cost will preclude many firms from doing it and there are times when an in person hearing is important to a particular case. The bottom line is that these programs are a benefit to all claimants because it should decrease the processing time of cases at the hearing level. I must commend SSA and all the employees at Social Security who worked on these programs to get them ready as quickly as they did.