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SSA Utilizes Video Hearings to Reduce SSD Backlog

In recent months, we have written about the ever-increasing backlog of Social Security Disability benefits applications and disability claims, which is causing understandable frustration among would-be or current recipients who rely on the federal program to pay their bills and make ends meet. In response to the increasingly heated criticism that has targeted Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue throughout the past year, Astrue recently announced that his agency is working on the backlog and that it plans to reduce wait times to nine months by the year 2013. However, many have discredited that claim, stating that it is impossible and unrealistic.

Recently, however, the Social Security Administration has taken steps to make good on Astrue's promise despite a growing demand for SSD and a continually shrinking agency budget. One such step is the increasing use of video hearings for SSD benefits and claims applications.

The benefits of video hearings are numerous. Administrative law judges have the ability conduct hearings with applicants who are a great distance away from a courthouse, which is especially beneficial to those with disabilities and serious medical conditions that make travel difficult or impossible. In addition, video hearings can, and often do, take place sooner than in-person hearings, cutting down the wait time for many of the almost two million SSD applicants who are currently on the standby list.

If you or someone you know is granted a video hearing, you should prepare for the hearing just as you would if it were in a courtroom. Judges have the ability to zoom in and out, so be sufficiently prepared, dress appropriately, and speak clearly.

Source: Forbes, "Social Security Attempting to Decrease Disability Backlog with Video Hearings", Bernard A. Krooks, 11 January 2011

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