As more and more claimants file for disability benefits, the local Offices of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) are beginning to experience significant backlog and delay in scheduling hearings.
In Milwaukee, the wait for a hearing has reached an average of 12 months from the date of the application for hearing. In an attempt to reduce this backlog and schedule hearings in a timelier manner, the Social Security Administration has been hiring and training new Administrative Law Judges and expanding the number of Staff Attorneys to assist in decision-making.
Additionally, cases from the most overwhelmed offices are being transferred to other regional offices that can assist in the adjudication of applications. Milwaukee area cases are often sent to offices in Santa Barbara, California and Phoenix, Arizona, among others. When cases are transferred to distant offices, hearings are held via video teleconferencing. The claimant and his representative appear in person at a Wisconsin location and participate in the hearing by video and are able to see and interact with the Administrative Law Judge on a large screen television. Vocational experts may also appear via video conferencing.
Any claimant who does not want to appear at their hearing by video conferencing and would rather appear in person must state their request to Social Security as early as possible. The claimant must state the reason for his objection and identify a time and place he desires his hearing to be held. Note that if a claimant objects to a video conference hearing, it may delay his hearing because the case will have to be transferred back to a local office that is overworked and backlogged.
Video conferences are most common when the case is transferred to an out-of-state ODAR office. As soon as a claimant becomes aware of this transfer, that is the time to notify the Social Security of an objection to video conference hearing. This request should be made in writing and delivered to the ODAR office in possession of the file. Claimants who make this request in the proper manner have an absolute right to have the hearing held in person rather than by video.