Video hearings may help with the backlog of disability cases caused by increased demand inadequate funding and under-staffing.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been plagued by a backlog for disability hearings for the last half dozen years. Underfunding and under-staffing are part of the cause.
Every year from 1998 through 2007, the President's Budget requested less than the Commissioner's requested budget, and Congress appropriated even less than the President's request.
The number of pending cases has increased dramatically since 1999, reaching an all-time record high of 768,540 cases in December 2008.
Through February 2009, the number dropped slightly to 765,527, but has not dropped below 760,000 since June 2008.
The agency finally obtained funding to hire 147 Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) and over 1,000 support staff in 2009, and hired an additional 226 ALJs in 2010.
They also implemented a system using video hearings. They created a centralized, National Hearing Center (NHC) to handle electronic files and conduct the video hearings.
How Video Hearings Work
Video hearings are conducted from specially set up rooms, with large television screens. The judge remains in his or her office, and the applicant goes to a site that may be conveniently located, closer to where the applicant may live.
SSA uses the video hearings to balance the workload of ALJs, in an attempt to help reduce the backlog in areas where there is an increased demand for additional hearings.
The goal is to make the video hearing as similar to an in-person hearing as possible. The judge can see the applicant and speak with them and anyone at the hearing, such as an attorney or any witnesses.
The advantage of the video hearing is that it may be scheduled sooner than an in-person appearance. It also may be held at a location closer to the applicant's home, making it easier for witnesses or other people to accompany them.
Fighting a Rising Tide
The recession and the economic difficulties of the past few years have increased pressure on the agency. The SSA demonstrates what happens when funding is inadequate, departments are understaffed and demand increases significantly.
As an example, in 1998, there were 1,087 ALJs available to conduct hearings. This number dropped to 1,018 in 2006, while the number of pending cases more than doubled.
The long wait time and other obstacles to receiving a hearing only reinforce the importance of having an experienced attorney to assist you with the Social Security claims process. A lawyer can advocate on your behalf and work to minimize delays caused by incomplete applications or missing documentation.
Article provided by The Law Offices of Coats & Todd - Visit us at www.getdisability.org