Due to the Federal Government Shutdown, Social Security field offices are open with limited services. Hearings offices remain open to conduct hearings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Social Security card centers are closed.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments to beneficiaries will continue with no change in payment dates.
If you live in northern Minnesota and have recently been notified of a hearing on your Social Security disability claim, there’s a good chance that it will be held by Video Teleconferencing (VTC). As a result, you may have the following questions:
-What is video teleconferencing?
–Can I request an “in person” hearing, instead of a video conference hearing?
-Are there disadvantages to having a video conference Social Security disability hearing?
Within the past year or so, the Social Security Administration has begun scheduling video conference hearings for northern Minnesota claims. Prior to that, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from the Minneapolis office would travel to Duluth or Hibbing and hold hearings where claimants and their representatives could appear live and in person. Apparently, the backlog in northern Minnesota became so great, that the Social Security Administration decided to begin using videoconference hearings with judges from outside the Minnesota area. In our experience, this change seems to have sped up the process of getting to a hearing. In the past, it was not unusual to wait as long as two years for a hearing after filing an initial application for disability benefits.
The videoconference hearings that I have attended with my clients during the past year or so have all involved judges from the St. Louis, Missouri Social Security Administration office.
A videoconference hearing is really no different than a live hearing, except that the judge is appearing on a television screen from his or her office hundreds of miles away. My clients and I typically travel to the federal courthouse in Duluth for the hearings. Generally, a vocational expert (VE) is present at the hearing in Duluth, although sometimes they appear by telephone conference. (Please see this previous post for more information about vocational experts.)
Procedurally, the hearings are identical to the way they would be held if the judge was present. There is a video screen in the hearing room and the judge can see you and you can see the judge. Any witnesses who will testify are sworn in, and the hearing proceeds in the normal fashion. (See this previous post for a description of what happens at a Social Security disability hearing). After a while, you hardly notice the fact that the judge is not in the same room with you.
Yes. The rules specifically provide that you have that option and the Notice of Hearing will also advise you of that right. If you prefer not to appear at your hearing by video teleconference, you must notify the Social Security hearing office within 5 days after you receive your Hearing Notice. The Hearing Notice also warns you that requesting an in person hearing “might delay your hearing to a date later than the current hearing date”.
I have not noticed or observed any disadvantages to videoconference hearings and none of my clients have had any problems with the process. Anytime you can get to a disability hearing faster and with fewer delays, I consider that to be an advantage.
Just like the rest of the world, the Social Security Administration seems to be using more and more of the new technology that is available. After watching many of my clients over the past several years suffer both physically and financially, while waiting months and months for a hearing, I think the new videoconferencing procedure has been a welcome development.
If you have any questions about a Social Security disability claim or if you need an experienced attorney to represent you, please feel free to contact us at any time with questions or to schedule your absolutely free initial consultation. Attorney Steve Bradt has been successfully representing Social Security disability claimants all across northern Minnesota for nearly 30 years. We are happy to assist you in any way that we can with your claim.
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A recent article posted on the website of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) describes some common myths, and then offers the true facts, regarding Social Security disability issues. The article lists 8 myths about the Social Security disability system, including:
MYTH: The current SSDI program is set up so that it keeps able-bodied people out of the workforce when they are employable.
MYTH: It has never been easier to obtain Social Security disability benefits.
MYTH: Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) are bankrupting the Social Security disability insurance program by rubber stamping every disability claim they hear.
MYTH: Social Security attorneys get rich by helping undeserving applicants cheat the system.
Check out the article here to read the rest of the myths and the true facts about these common misconceptions about our Social Security disability insurance program.
The NOSSCR website is a good source of information for claimant’s and claimant’s representatives. We highly recommend that you visit the site and see what they have to offer.
If you have questions about your own disability claim, please feel free to contact Bradt Law Offices for your absolutely free consultation. We have been handling Social Security disability claims all across northern Minnesota for over 29 years and are always happy to discuss your claim at any stage of the claim process.
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