Social Security recently changed its rules regarding videoteleconferencing (VTC), and is now sending notices regarding VTC at an early stage of the hearing level. The new notice requires a decision within 30 whether or not to object to a video hearing. Previously, the objection to VTC was not made until the time a hearing was actually scheduled.
By moving forward the date by which an objection can be made, the issue to VTC or not is separated completely the identity of your judge or the timing of the hearing. Which in my view, makes it much easier to say no to a video hearing.
The SSA likes VTC, which gives it lots of options in terms of providing hearings from central locations. VTC is an effective way to clear cases in hearing offices that have substanital backlogs of pending claims. There are national hearing centers now, where administrative law judges hear cases all day long by video from somewhere else in the country.
I believe SSA expected that moving the date for an objection forward would lead to fewer objections to video hearings. In my view (and others), it will have the opposite effect, and Social Security will receive many more objections to VTC hearings.
I have hearings in Maine and New Hampshire (and occasionally in Massachusetts). I know the local judges, and always prefer and in person hearing. In general, I will be objecting to VTC hearings, because I do not want the possibility of my cases being heard by a distant judge with whom I am not familiar, and who is unfamiliar with our stoic New England claimants.
Some of my clients live in more remote parts of the state, and expect to have a video hearing anyway, so that they do not have to travel as far. For now, I expect that these claims will be kept in the local hearing office, and will not object to these clients having a video hearing. However, if the local hearing office starts farming out video hearings to other hearing offices, I will revisit that issue for future cases.
I suppose like anything else in law, you need to make a case-by-case determination. But in the abstract, I think objecting to a VTC hearing under this new system is a good idea.