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Why I Recommend Video Hearings to My Clients

Nov. 9, 2022

I want to thank a client in Fort Worth, Texas, for suggesting this topic.

Let’s start with an important point; the facts of a case matter the most in the outcome of a Social Security Disability claim.  The next biggest factor is having a good attorney with a lot of experience on your side.  Somewhere below those two factors is how you have your hearing conducted. Video, telephone or in-person.  How you have your hearing can also influence how effective your attorney can be in your representation.

For many years the standard for a hearing was to come to the hearing office; wait for your case to be called, and then proceed into a courtroom where your hearing would be conducted with a Social Security judge.

The pandemic changed how Social Security handles court.  At first, hearings were moved to telephone only.  This is not an ideal way to hold a hearing unless you are not wanting to have the judge see you.  Video hearing technology was rapidly adopted by SSA, and for more than two years was the best replacement for an in-person hearing.  Only fairly recently, has SSA come back to conducting in-person hearings.

The video hearing is the superior manner to have your hearing.  Telephone hearings are the least desirable, as nobody can see anyone else.  We want the Social Security judge to be empathetic to you.  Seeing you as a living breathing human being is important.

The judges are now used to video hearings.  By electing a video hearing you aren’t asking for anything special.  In a video hearing you can see the judge, the judge can see you.  Nobody is likely wearing a mask.  You can see the judge’s expressions and they can see yours.  You can be at home or another comfortable location, the judge may well be at their home, and your attorney can be in their office.  What that means for you, is that your attorney, who is working for you, has access to multiple computer monitors, and high-speed internet.  It allows your attorney to be the most effective that they can be.

If you instead elect for an in-person hearing everyone in the hearing must pass the health screening questionnaire.  If any participant in your hearing has any of the following the day of court your hearing will be canceled and reset for another date and time. Fever (100.4 degrees or higher), or chills, Cough or sore throat; Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; Fatigue; Muscle pain or body aches; Headache; New loss of taste or smell; Congestion or runny nose; or Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

So, a little bit of a headache or allergies by anyone involved in your court date means that the hearing will be postponed months later.  Your chances of your hearing going off as scheduled are far greater by choosing video over in-person.

If you manage to avoid cancelation of your in-person hearing, what you get is a hearing with everyone wearing a mask and nobody can see each other’s expressions.  You aren’t truly seen.  Also, your attorney will have a single monitor to work with on their laptop and will only have access to the internet via a connection through their phone.  It isn’t ideal.

If you are thinking about going to a Social Security hearing without an attorney DON’T do that without calling me first.  It doesn’t matter if you are in New Jersey or California, I can represent claimants in all 50 states.

Peter Murphy, is the author.  He represents disabled individuals before the US Social Security administration, and in United States Federal Courts.  A graduate of Lockport High School, in Lockport, New York, Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, he is an attorney admitted in both Tennessee and North Carolina.  He has taught numerous continuing legal education courses for other attorneys, appeared as a guest on multiple radio and television programs and he is available for speaking engagements and media appearances.  He now resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee.