Jan 29, 2015

Many Opting Out Of Video Hearings

     The newsletter of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) (not available online) says that over 220,000 claimants opted out of video hearings when they were given the chance in October and November of 2014. That's more than one in five pending requests for hearing. I'm surprised that the number opting out isn't even higher. Some claimants and attorneys are more willing than others to tolerate video hearings but nobody likes them.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are certain attorneys who are instructing their claimants to all opt out. Then comeback and ask for a Dire Need expedited hearing. Unless there is compelling reason, I deny the request in part because they could have had an earlier hearing if they had agreed to video.

Reps need to think carefully of the implications on their clients when the make such blanket requests.

Anonymous said...

There are no implications to making blanket requests opting out of VTCs. There are no indication that VTCs hearings are scheduled any quicker than in person hearings. Additionally, a local ALJ, with whom I have a relationship and history with, is more likely to grant a dire needs request for my client than an out of town ALJ who does know me or live in the community.

Dan Smith said...

Isn't it just common sense that it will take ODAR longer to schedule an in-person hearing if they need to coordinate an ALJ traveling to a remote site?

To me at least, the VTC is the lesser of two evils when compared to the harm of even more months for the claimant waiting for a hearing

Anonymous said...

Dan: at least in our practice area (upper Midwest), there doesn't appear to be a difference in scheduling time between VTC and in person hearings. But we have several permanent ODAR locations in our area that regularly schedule hearings. Additionally, the VTC offices that generally service our local ODARs generally have lower pay rates than our local ALJs. Makes sense for our clients for us to send in a blanket denial to all VTC hearings.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak to the video hearing experience of others but it is my opinion that VTC hearings are wholly detrimental to my claimant simply because of the impersonal and removed nature of the things.

After waiting out the entire paper shuffling process, a claimant's hearing is their opportunity to have the final decision maker actually look them in the eye.

I have endured video hearings where the ALJ asked the claimant questions only to be apparently distracted when she answered. I have watched ALJ's in the national hearing center have unrelated off screen chats - with heaven knows who - throughout entire hearings only to drone on like he is bored when he finally returns his attention to the matter at hand.

That is not a fair hearing.

Quite frankly, it is insulting to expect someone who has endured an already agonizingly slow process to accept such half-a$$ed efforts after waiting roughly two years for their day in court.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the hate for the video hearings. Our firm has won 100% of the video hearings.

Anonymous said...

@ Dan Smith - we are not seeing ODARS offer remote site hearings to clients who object to VTC: rather the client is told thy can take the VTC or drive to the nearest ODAR. This sometimes forces the client into accepting the VTC which is what the policy is designed to do.

Anonymous said...

If you win 100% of your hearings you either aren't taking on difficult cases or you are friends with Judge Daugherty.

I have to echo the sentiments of 9:21 AM as it relates to ALJs who solely do VTC and even ALJs who are being asked to do VTC hearings for another hearing office, there is a completely impersonal feel to these folks. There is regularly no eye contact being made by the ALJ, they typically follow a script of questions that rarely is relevant to the issues in the case, and then try to cut short my questioning of my client, claiming they only have an allotted amount of time for the hearing. They are the epitome of bureaucrats.

Anonymous said...

As an ALJ, I do not like video hearings. I cannot see the claimant well and it is hard to judge credibility. I think my pay rate is lower on video hearings. I can't hear well and the CD is hard to understand after the hearing. I think in person hearings are the best.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the input, 11:19. I appreciate the ALJ perspective.

I've always wondered why SS even gives the claimant a choice? If they really wanted to push VTCs, why not just say that this is the way it's going to be?

Anonymous said...

@11:40

Just wait for it. All these minor changes have just been appetizers for the big rulemaking that is coming.

And whether you like them or not, it's going to happen. GSA and the Fed Gov't as a whole are simply not going to keep expanding (or even keep at present levels) the physical footprint of Gov't. Everyone has to cut when times get tough, and rather than just layoff everyone or cut benefits (or otherwise screw the employees), the gov't is going after the other low-hanging fruit of facilities budgets.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me like they should get rid of these contract hearing reporters. Dictation software has come a long way, and SSA could save a bundle by digitizing this job.

Anonymous said...

The local ALJ's live in the same area as my clients. They are familiar with the health care providers locally since they are also local consumers. I know the ALJ and his or her hearing presentation, and what he or she considers important. Why roll the dice on a random ALJ? Besides the in person hearings are held in the same location where the teleconferencing is held.

Anonymous said...

9:31 has expressed the reason that I've submitted blanket objections. Another reason is that the VE's used by the NHC are vicious--there are ALWAYS jobs that any quadriplegic can do (only slight exaggeration). At least I'm prepared by knowing the favorite testimony of the local VE's.

For most of my clients, I would actually prefer the convenience of video hearings--but with ALJ's from the local ODAR, which is 84 miles away, whereas the field office video room is only 25 miles away. However, the FO video room is so booked that we would be expected to drive the 84 miles to ODAR to have a video hearing with a remote ALJ. If I have to drive to ODAR, I want a personal hearing for my client! And, there has been no difference in waiting times for video hearings.

I've kept statistics, and I find that my win/denial rate is about the same with videos as personal hearings.

In about 20% of my cases, my clients are disadvantage by video hearings, as ALJ 11:19 described. At video hearings, my ambulatory-impaired clients is already seated when the ALJ begins and doesn't see the struggle to ambulate. With many mental health issues, the ALJ can better pick up on the "weirdness" radiated by my client to understand why he/she is unemployable.

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, CEs and even family doctors note whether clamants ambulatoire effectively. Why the need for the ALJ to see your clients putting on a show?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes there is a huge difference between what you perceive on paper and what the reality actually looks like - or sounds like.

Why do you need to assume my claimants are putting on a show?

Anonymous said...

I've heard this argument before though. What tangible, meaningful difference is there between a trained medical professional's assessment of an individual's ambulatory ability vs. that of an ALJ?

Anonymous said...

If the Vision 2025 comes into being, it will be 100% video hearings in the next few years.

Anonymous said...

I am disturbed by the first comment by an anonymous person indicating that they would deny a dire need in part due to the fact that a claimant had rejected a VTC hearing and could have had it sooner. Really?? Show some proof of that. In my area it is highly inaccurate. There have been long delays as claimants were being cued up for terrible one room VTC sites. And then, of course... they equipment is so lousy you end up with supplemental hearings. I have done 100s of VTC hearings, but in the past could opt out of locations with terrible facilities. Given the new regulation, policy is now to recommend opt out to everyone because there is no quality control. Side effects... faster schedulings for my clients, more travel for me and clients, more travel vouchers.......hearings that close rather than remain opened ended... with supplementals.... Not to mention...25% shorter hearings because we can all HEAR each other. High quality outweighs convenience of ODAR.