Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be a complicated process because more than half of all claims are initially denied. This leaves workers going through a four stage appeals process, which begins with a request for review and then progresses to a disability benefits hearing.
Appealing a benefits denial is often your best choice for getting the benefits that you need. A Social Security Disability lawyer in Massachusetts can help with the appeals process so you can make a compelling argument to convince the administrative law judge (ALJ) to award you benefits. However, the entire appeals process can take a very long time and some applicants end up waiting a year or longer just to get a hearing. There is a significant backlog of people waiting for a hearing to determine if they should receive benefits, and you will need to wait for the SSA to work through this backlog and put you on the schedule.
Fortunately, the SSA is working to try to get through the pending appeals and to make it easier and faster for the disabled to get the benefits that they need. One way in which they are doing that is by increasing the number of video hearings.
Increase in Video Hearings Helps the Disabled
In 2013, the Social Security Administration reports that there were a total of 179,308 video hearings conducted over the course of the year by administrative law judges in the Social Security Disability (SSD) program. This was an increase of almost 17 percent from the 153,592 video hearings that took place over the course of 2011. It is more than double the 86,320 total video hearings that took place over the course of 2009.
While most hearings are still held in person before judges, the Social Security Administration has indicated that it will continue to expand access to video at National Hearing Centers. There are currently five such centers, which are located in St. Louis, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Chicago and Falls Church in Virginia.
Video conferencing does more than just speed the process of getting a hearing. It also is easier for many applicants who are severely disabled since they do not have to travel to an in-person hearing. Claimants who live in more remote areas also benefit by being able to have their hearing via video conference.
If your disability appeal will be held via video hearing, it is still important to take steps to protect yourself and to ensure that you do everything possible to make a compelling argument for benefits. As many as 75 percent of people who have reached the hearing level are represented by an attorney or other representative who can help them and it is a good idea to ensure that you have an advocate standing up for you.
You should also be prepared to present witnesses, including medical and vocational experts, and to answer questions asked of you by the judge about your disabling condition. Your attorney can help to ensure that you are ready for the hearing so you’ll have the best chance of getting benefits.
If you are considering filing for SSDI in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
More Blog Entries:
Disability Awareness Efforts a Reminder of Importance of Providing for Disabled, Feb. 20, 2014, Boston SSDI, Attorney Blog