Your source for news affecting the U.S. Social Security Administration/© Charles T. Hall
Sadly, this doesn't surprise me. A significant portion of reps I talk to on this issue really haven't given any thought to the issue and just follow whatever ODAR dictates to them. I doubt that they even discuss the issues with their clients.We discuss VTC with each and every client, and when given the option of discussing their case with an in person ALJ vs a VTC hearing, nearly every client wants an in person hearing. Outside circumstances such as location and dire need will sometimes impact whether we opt out or not. Based on recent stats showing a 10% difference in approval ratings between NHCs and traditional ODARs, there seems to be evidence to support opting out.
As long as ODAR still allows the option to opt out of VTC, it's almost always in the clients' best interests to have the in-person hearings. I, personally, am glad that the number is so long because I know SS is really pushing the VTC hearings. I've always assumed that they would eventually remove the option to opt out of VTC if too many people chose that option.
I'd like to see a localized break down, bc in my neck of the woods, I bet 90% opt out
And I would like to a comparison between represented and unrepresented claimants.
Agree it is usually in the client's best interest to opt out of VTC if given the chance.However, this is not always feasible in remote like locations. In California, this means places like Needles, El Centro, etc. small towns in the middle of the desert. If you opt out, you probably wait another 2-4 months to get a hearing. Not really worth it when you are getting the same ALJ.
Like it or not, video hearings are the only way the agency can even attempt to reduce the backlog. The agency isn't able to place enough judges where the greatest need is because those offices are already at the maximum capacity for judges. The agency (and no domestic federal agency) is allowed to move into office space that is larger than its existing office space. (google GSA's "no net new" policy that been in place for over 2 years now) If a hearing office moves into new space it must actually be smaller than its current office space. So, the only way to increase hearing capacity is by bringing in judges to do cases by video where the biggest backlogs are. If the claimant's bar doesn't want that, then don't complain about increased wait times for hearings.
Also, there are some COV sites (claimant only video), where if the rep opts out, the claimant must drive, sometimes hours, to get to the home office for an in person hearing. I bet those sites are about 100% video.
There are certainly circumstances like @9:49 AM points out where video perhaps makes sense to a claimant. But if its driving to the same location and the choice of seeing an ALJ in person or an ALJ via video, I'll go with the in person hearing.
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