Social Security Disability Video Hearings Increase

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Allsup explains what to expect at an SSDI hearing

Whatever the format of your disability hearing, it’s important to have an SSDI representative such as Allsup to be your advocate.

More than 129,000 video hearings were held for Social Security disability benefits in fiscal year 2011, and that number is expected to increase, highlighting the need for representation, according to Allsup, which has helped thousands of people to receive their Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reported that 129,775 video hearings were held in FY 2011, an increase of more than 9,000 from FY 2010. During video hearings, individuals seeking Social Security disability benefits present their claims before administrative law judges (ALJs). The SSA is increasing the use of video teleconference technology, in part to help reduce the processing time for claimants. The federal agency forecasts 140,000 video hearings will be held in FY 2012.

“Claimants now contend with a variety of hearing environments. They might be meeting in-person with an ALJ, or the ALJ could be broadcast into a room using video teleconferencing,” said Mike Stein, Allsup assistant vice president of claims. “Whatever the format of your disability hearing, it’s important to have an SSDI representative such as Allsup to be your advocate.”

A video hearing allows claimants and other participants to see and hear each other using videoconference equipment. In general, the judge remains at his location and the claimant goes to a convenient hearing site. A video hearing is similar to an in-person hearing.

Social Security Disability Hearing: What To Expect
Allsup provides the following information about what to expect at a Social Security Disability Insurance hearing.

How should I dress? It’s important to plan dress that is not overly fancy, and not overly casual. There’s no need for a business suit, but shorts and a halter top are not appropriate. “It’s important to show respect by dressing appropriately,” said Edward Swierczek, Allsup senior claimant representative.

What happens in the hearing room? Along with the claimant and her representative, those attending the Social Security disability hearing will include the ALJ, someone who records the proceedings, a vocational or medical expert, or both. A claimant may have another witness, such as a spouse, available to present testimony, Swierczek said. However, it’s likely to have a limited impact on the claim for Social Security benefits.

At the beginning, the judge swears in the claimant and asks general questions for the record. Examples include the claimant’s name, birthdate and Social Security number. The ALJ also may ask the claimant for her height, weight and living arrangements.

It’s common for the judge to ask the claimant about how her disability affects her daily life. This can include questions about handling household activities, such as shopping, laundry and cleaning. This is the time when the claimant’s representative may interject with questions of his own to help clarify the person’s physical limitations, Swierczek said. “By asking questions, I can help ensure the judge has all the information he needs to make a disability decision.”

What happens next? Additional questions may follow. For example, the ALJ may question the vocational expert about any jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform. Medical experts may respond to questions about whether the claimant is physically or mentally able to perform that type of work.

Generally, hearings last about an hour or less, though there are exceptions. Three things can happen at the conclusion of an SSDI hearing:

  •     The ALJ will close the record and the claimant will receive a written decision, which may take up to six months. This is the most common method of receiving a decision.
  •     The ALJ will make a bench decision, announcing at the hearing that he is awarding SSDI benefits.
  •     The judge may indicate that he’s awarding benefits, but that the claimant will have to wait for a formal notification.

Although Social Security disability hearings can be stressful for claimants, they are not intended to be confrontational, Swierczek said. “The judges are working to ensure they have all the facts needed to evaluate your claim and determine if you are eligible for SSDI benefits,” he said. “Many of them are understanding and patient, so it’s important to remain calm, be yourself and answer all questions truthfully and with complete details.”

For a free SSDI evaluation, or for more information about a disability appeal or upcoming hearing, contact Allsup’s Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276.

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, go to or visit Allsup on Facebook at

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Rebecca Ray
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