Recently, an article, Videoconferencing: State Of The Art Technology For SSDI Hearings, appeared in Telepresence Options. The article discussed not only the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) use of video teleconferencing (VTC), but also its commitment to use the technology even more. The article states that in 2012, more than 150,000 hearings were held via video and 2013 should see an even higher number. “[T]he hope is that transitioning to more video hearings will speed up the wait time for benefits, clear up the court docket and save much-needed operating funds.”
The Administrative Conference has recently issued two recommendations related to video hearings, Agency Use of Video Hearings: Best Practices and Possibilities for Expansion and Improving Consistency in Social Security Disability Adjudications, the latter specifically directed to SSA. In the former recommendation, the Administrative Conference encourages agencies to consider using VTC and provides a list of criteria agencies should consider when determining whether to use the technology, such as whether VTC may be used without affecting the outcome of cases and whether the use of VTC would result in savings for the agency. The Conference also provides a list of best practices that agencies should consider when conducting hearings via video. In the latter recommendation, the Conference recommends that SSA expand its use of video hearings because such hearings, while not significantly affecting case outcome, promote efficiency.
SSA is taking steps to expand the use of video hearings. As the article states, the agency “is currently considering a proposal wherein [it] will automatically assign video hearings to some applicants, [while allowing that applicant] to decline a video conference hearing and appear directly before a judge instead.” Such a proposal promises to achieve the appropriate balance between fairness and efficiency and is supported by the Conference’s past work in this area.