Should I go to a Social Security Disability Video Hearing?

I've never cared for the idea of Social Security Disability hearings done by video. If you're not familiar with the concept, it simply means what the phrase implies. You and your disability attorney or non-attorney claimant's representative are in one location and the administrative law judge, the individual who evaluates your claim at the hearing level and makes the decision as to whether or not you will be awarded disability, is at another location. Your means of communicating is via video conferencing.

Why do I dislike even the idea of a hearing conducted in this fashion? Well, you give up a psychological advantage that is embedded in the nature of hearings. The hearing is, of course, the only appeal level at which you, the applicant for disability benefits, can actually meet the decision-maker.

A posting by a disability attorney in Pennsylvania, seems to hold similar sentiments about video disability hearings. Insler points out his belief that it is easier for a judge to deny the case of a claimant he or she never met. And from my perspective, this is why, to some extent, it is easier for disability examiners to routinely deny cases, even routinely deny strong cases, without batting an eye. They never meet the claimants whose cases they decide the outcomes for. And, basically, claimants simply become files and processing statistics.

The same goes for DDS (disability determination services, the state-level agency that handles disability determinations for Social Security Disability and SSI disability claims) medical consultants. These physicians, who work in conjunction with disability examiners to decide cases, never meet claimants; yet, they provide opinions that direct how claims are decided.

I think, this "distanced" aspect" plays a part in how easy it is for DDS unit medical consultants (aka social security doctors) to routinely assign medium residual functional capacity ratings to so many individuals (the way I see it, most of these doctors barely have a clue as to what fifty pounds feels like--a medium rating involves the ability to lift 50 lbs occasionally).

The nice thing about video hearings, of course, is that you don't have to take one. You have the right to decline a video hearing and the right to be physically present at the Social Security Disability hearing that, perhaps, has taken you two years or longer to get to.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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