The Final Say on Scheduling Hearings
To accommodate growing numbers of disability hearings, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is making a few changes to the rules in order to speed up the hearing and decision process.
The new hearing rules deal primarily with scheduling and notice procedures pertaining to video hearings. In addition to expediting the hearing and decision process, the new rules are designed to prevent people from manipulating the rules to cherry-pick Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) with higher allowance rates and avoid those with lower rates.
According to the new rules, before scheduling a hearing, a claimant must be notified of the possibility that his or her hearing will occur via video teleconferencing (VTC). The claimant then has a time limit of 30 days to object to VTC in writing. If the objection is timely, SSA officials will then consider scheduling an in-person hearing.
The rule includes a “good cause” provision allowing for an extension of the 30-day time limit if the SSA decides it is warranted. There is also an exception to the 30-day time limit if the claimant moves while his or her objection to VTC is pending. In this instance, the SSA will determine whether or not the claimant will get a VTC or an in-person hearing.
Another highlight of the new rules is a 5-day minimum for claimant objections to the time or place of the hearing. Claimants are instructed to notify the SSA of such an objection “at the earliest possible opportunity,” but no later than 5 days prior to the hearing. A “good cause” provision also applies here.
Finally, the new rules allow an ALJ to schedule a telephone hearing in two cases: (1) when an in-person hearing is not possible (i.e. the claimant is in jail and lacks access to VTC facilities), or (2) if the ALJ determines that “extraordinary circumstances” will prevent the claimant from appearing in person or via VTC.
These new rules took effect on July 25, 2014.