SSA Proposes To Conduct All Appeals From Benefit Denials Via Video Conference, Ending Live, In-Person Hearings

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is one of the major federal programs that provides monetary assistance to people with disabilities. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that helps people with disabilities and very low income and assets pay for food and shelter.

SSDI is often confused with SSI. Although both programs pay benefits to those found to be disabled, a main difference between the two programs is that SSDI is available to people with disabilities no matter how much money they earn or have, while SSI places very strict limits on a recipient’s income and assets.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) initially rejects many applications for SSDI and SSI benefits. If an application is rejected – or a beneficiary is denied further benefits — they can appeal and have a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Many of these hearings are conducted in person, but now the SSA is proposing to conduct all appeals for people denied SSDI and SSI benefits via video conference.

Video conferences have become the preferred method for conducting SSDI and SSI appeals. Up until now, an applicant for benefits could always opt out of a video hearing in preference of a live, in-person hearing if a request was made within 30 days of receiving notice of the hearing date. Although about a third of applicants choose to opt-out and have their hearings in person, SSA now wants to eliminate this opt-out process entirely.

A proposed rule by SSA would instead allow the agency to determine the method of hearing for claimants and remove claimants’ ability to opt out of video hearings. SSA says the streamlined process would reduce its huge appeals backlog. In 2018, people appealing an initial denial of benefits had to wait an average of almost 600 days before arguing their cases in front of an administrative law judge.

In comments submitted to the SSA, the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives (NOSCAR), a specialized bar association for attorneys who represent SSDI and SSI claimants though the appeals process, (the Vanarelli Law Firm is a member of NOSCAR) argued that video hearings are infeasible for many people with hearing loss, who experience seizures prompted by video technology, have significant intellectual disabilities, or a combination of these or other disabilities.  Others have pointed to “recurring technical difficulties and inadequate accommodations at specific video locations used by SSA.”

The rule would also make other harmful changes, such as making remote testimony by medical and vocational experts the default, and reducing the notice time from 75 days to 20 days when SSA sends an amended notice of hearing or schedules a supplemental hearing.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register, attached here – [gview file=””]

For additional information concerning social security disability appeals, visit:

Social Security Disability Appeals