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On June 25, 2014, SSA published 79 Fed. Reg. 35926 (June 25, 2014), explaining how a claimant may object to appearing at a hearing via video teleconferencing, or to the time and place of a hearing. See article in the July 2014 NOSSCR Social Security Forum. Specifically, these rules provide that prior to scheduling a hearing, SSA will notify the claimant that it may schedule the appearance by video teleconferencing. If the claimant objects to appearing by video teleconferencing, the claimant or his/her representative must notify SSA in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice.
SSA will begin implementing these rules on September 6, 2014. For any hearing requests received after September 6, 2014, the acknowledgements will include language that the hearing may be a video hearing. For pending claims for which acknowledgements have already been sent, but the hearing has not yet been scheduled, SSA will send a notice that the hearing may be either in person or by video teleconferencing. SSA will mail out these notices on a staggered basis over a 6 week period beginning September 19, 2014.
Major process changes include:
- Before ODAR schedules a hearing, it will notify the claimant that SSA may schedule him or her to appear by video teleconferencing. This notice will be part of the hearing request acknowledgment. The official hearing notice with the date and time of the hearing will be sent at a later time.
- Any objection to a video hearing must be made in writing within 30 days unless the claimant can show good case for missing the deadline. If you notify SSA within that time period and the claimant's residence does not change while the request for hearing is pending, SSA will schedule an in-person hearing. If the in-person hearing requires travel to a more distant location, the claimant and representative will be reimbursed under SSA’s current reimbursement policy, which remains unchanged.
- If you (on behalf of the claimant) object within the 30-day timeframe but the claimant moves while the request for hearing is pending, the ALJ will decide how the claimant will appear, including by video teleconferencing. As discussed in the preface to the June 25th final rule, SSA is concerned that claimants report a change in residence so that the case is assigned to a hearing office with a higher allowance rate.
- According to HALLEX I-2-1-57 SSA will honor the claimant’s request not to appear by VTC even when a claimant changes residences if there is no additional delay or other reason not the schedule the claimant for an in person hearing.
- HALLEX I-2-0-70 states that if the 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 the new hearing office. Instead, the ALJ will try to schedule a video hearing. If a video hearing is not feasible, the in person hearing will be scheduling the original hearing office. If the claimant would need to travel more than 75 miles to the hearing, the ALJ will discuss with the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge whether a case transfer is appropriate.
- The claimant or his/her representative only needs to respond to this notice if there is an objection to appearing by video teleconferencing. If the claimant agrees to a video hearing, no response is necessary. It does not mean that a video hearing will definitely be scheduled; it just means that the claimant agrees to a video hearing if it is scheduled.
- SSA asks that you send responses (on behalf of the claimant) in the business reply envelope that SSA will provide or to the SSA special fax number (included in the document entitled “ rather than bringing the response to SSA or ODAR offices. Please do not upload these responses to the Appointed Representative Services site, which might delay processing.
Relevant revised or new HALLEX instructions are found at I-2-0-15, I-2-0-20, I-2-0-21, I-2-0-70. I-2-3-10, I-2-3-11, I-2-3-12, I-2-3-15, I-2-3-30, I-2-6-15.
In addition, temporary Instruction I-5-1-16 “video Teleconferencing Procedures” has been removed as obsolete.