SSA Issues Proposed Regulations on Video Hearings
Comments due August 26
To "protect the integrity of our programs and preserve limited resources," SSA has issued proposed regulations that would provide notice of a video hearing before a case is scheduled and/or assigned to an ALJ. 78 Fed. Reg. 38610 (June 27, 2013). Available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-06-27/pdf/2013-14894.pdf. Comments are due no later than August 26, 2013. A more detailed article about the proposed revisions will appear in the June 2013 NOSSCR Social Security Forum.
The proposed change would notify the claimant prior to scheduling a hearing that the hearing may be held by video teleconferencing (VTC). The claimant would have 30 days from the date this notice is received (this is not the official "notice of hearing) to object to the VTC hearing. If the objection is "timely," an in-person hearing will be scheduled. However, there is a "limited exception" if the claimant moves while the request for hearing is pending. In that case, "we [SSA] will determine whether a claimant will appear in person or by [VTC]." Why this exception to the rule? The preface states:
This limited exception to the rule would allow us to protect the integrity of our programs while providing us with the flexibility to transfer cases when there is a legitimate change in residence and such a transfer would allow us to process the case more efficiently.
Other important changes proposed include:
- Setting a time limit for objecting to the time or place of the hearing. The claimant must notify SSA "at the earliest possible opportunity" but no later than 5 days before the hearing date or, if earlier, within 30 days after receipt of the notice of hearing. The ALJ will decide if "good cause" applies to reschedule. Some "minor revisions" are proposed for "good cause" to reschedule, e.g., removal of the example that the claimant lives closer to another hearing site [current 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.936(f)(6) and 416.1436(f)(6).
- Telephone hearings. The ALJ would be able to schedule a telephone hearing when (1) an in-person appearance is not possible, e.g., the claimant is incarcerated and VTC is not available at the facility; or (2) the ALJ determines, on his own or at the claimant's request, that "extraordinary circumstances" prevent the claimant from appearing in person or by VTC.
Nancy G. Shor