The hearing monitor at a Social Security disability hearing is akin to a court reporter in court. The hearing monitor is present at the hearing, sitting in front of a computer, and manages the digital recording of each Social Security disability hearing. Along with an administrative law judge, hearing monitors are a constant presence in the hearing room.
For as long as I can remember, hearing monitors have been contract employees, coming and going from the hearing office as needed. However, that has changed in the Portland, Maine ODAR, and according to reports, in many hearing offices around the country.
The new hearing monitors are the senior case technicians and case technicians from the hearing office staff. To save money, rather than contract out the hearing monitor assignments, the SSA is using its existing staff to perform the task.
I have experienced no problems at all with the SSA-staffed hearings. Each staffer has been very professional. The issue is what toll the hearing monitor assignments are taking on the rest of the workload for these staffers.
For those who don't know, the case technicians and the senior case technicians are the core of a Social Security hearing office. They are running the office, scheduling the hearings, working up the cases, and doing everything that doesn't require a judge or a staff attorney. So taking them away from all that for a day or two of hearings each week is a pretty big deal.
The Portland hearing office is already facing a backlog and significant wait times for hearings. Taking away a day or two a week of productivity for its key staff is not going to improve productivity.
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