Last week I objected to two video hearings that were scheduled for August. I continue to be ambivalent about video hearings.
I have done dozens of video hearings. I think the technology works great. And in a case with very strong medical evidence, a video hearing can be fine. But in a case where the medical evidence alone does not demand a favorable decision, the client's testimony is very important. And something is lost in a video hearing: a personal connection is hard to achieve by video. So the claimant's testimony is less compelling.
The other factor that goes into my calculus is there is little reason for a video hearing at the Portland, Maine ODAR. This ODAR is #1 in the country for average processing time of disability claims. The wait time for a hearing in Maine is half the wait in much of the country. Since we have plenty of terrific ALJs live and in person in Portland, it makes no sense to me to go to the Portland hearing office for a video hearing with a judge somewhere else.
I recognize that having to reschedule a hearing and then fill the hole in the schedule is a thankless task for the Portland hearing office staff. But a recent memorandum from Social Security Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo makes clear that an in person hearing is the absolute right of a claimant.
Again, I have no problem with video hearings in general. But when the testimony of the claimant is particularly important, I would much rather be in the same room as the judge.