In an effort to streamline and expedite the wait for Social Security Disability hearings, the Social Security Administration has expanded use of remote video hearings before Administrative Law Judges. The result is that a Social Security Disability claimant living in Ft. Lauderdale, may have his or her case heard by an Administrative Law Judge in St. Louis, Missouri or elsewhere. This physical distance from the Administrative Law Judge, could have a profound impact on the outcome of the claimant’s case. Many argue, that without the ability of the Judge to physically observe and asses the claimant, the probability increases that the decision will be unfavorable.
On June 25, 2014, SSA published final rules explaining how a claimant may object to appearing at a hearing via teleconferencing, or to the time and place of a hearing. These rules provide that prior to scheduling a hearing, SSA will notify the claimant that it may schedule the appearance by video teleconferencing. These rules went into effect on September 6, 2014. The claimant will have 30 days after receiving notice of the teleconferencing, to object and request an in-person hearing with a Judge. In the event that the claimant relocates to another State or jurisdiction, prior to the hearing, the Judge will decide how the claimant will appear, including via video conferencing. The Social Security Administration is clearly concerned that claimants report a change in residence, so that the case is assigned to a hearing office with a higher allowance rate. This is often called “venue shopping,” which SSA is trying to quash.
If a claimant did not object to a video hearing and then moves to a location that falls under the jurisdiction of another hearing office, the case will generally not be transferred to anew hearing office. Instead, the ALJ is likely to schedule a video hearing and retain “jurisdiction” over the claimant who has relocated.