After nearly five months of review, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has cleared proposed new regulations concerning objecting to video hearings. This proposal was submitted while Michael Astrue was still Commissioner. OMB is part of the White House. OMB has to clear any regulatory proposal made by any agency. Five months is a very long time for one of Social Security's proposals to stay under review at OMB. I would guess that OMB identified this proposal as significant and possibly controversial. OMB's website indicates that there was some change made in the proposed rule while it was under review. Here is Social Security's original summary of the proposal:
We propose to revise our rules to protect the integrity of our programs and to address public concerns regarding the removal of an administrative law judge's name from the Notice of Hearing and other prehearing notices. To accomplish both objectives, these proposed rules state that we will provide an individual with notice that his or her hearing may be held by video teleconferencing and that he or she has an opportunity to object to appearing by video teleconferencing within 30 days of the notice. We have also made changes that allow us to determine that claimant will appear via video teleconferencing if a claimant changes residences while his or her request for hearing is pending. We anticipate these changes will increase the integrity of our programs with minimal impact on the public and result in more efficient administration of our program.We should know soon how this proposal ended up, since it will probably be published in the Federal Register in the next week or two. Note that Social Security will not be publishing a final rule at this time. They will only be publishing a Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM). The public will get a chance to review the NPRM and comment on it. It will be many months at least before anything becomes final.
My opinion is that under a rule such as described above many attorneys will advise their clients to refuse video hearings. The main reason that attorneys now advise their clients to accept video hearings is to avoid delay. It's not like we think that a video hearing is just as good as an in-person hearing. If the decision to refuse a video hearing can be made well before any hearing is scheduled, there should be no reason for additional delay associated with asking for an in person hearing. If this goes forward, things may not work out in the way that Social Security expects.
Also, if a Social Security claimant moves from North Carolina to Minnesota while his or her request for hearing is pending, why does he or she abandon their right to an in person hearing?