October 20, 2014

Social Security Administration’s Disability Hearings By Video

With a backlog of pending disability cases in Indiana and across the country, many people have received notices informing them their Social Security disability hearing might be held by video teleconference.  You have the opportunity to object to the use of video teleconferencing; if you do Social Security must arrange a hearing for you in which you meet the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) face-to-face.  There are various factors to consider in deciding whether or not to object to a video hearing. The pros to having an in-person hearing: You are in the same room as the ALJ.  It is possible that in person, the ALJ can better observe your physical and mental condition.   The ALJ can observe you entering and exiting the courtroom; if you use an assistive device the judge will be able to see it.  Further, in-person hearings may allow participants to observe facial expressions and body language the video screen may not be able to portray as clearly. Local ALJs are more likely to know about the local healthcare system.  When a judge who lives five states away looks at your medical records, he or she may not recognize your medical providers or even know what type of doctors they are.  A local ALJ is also more likely to know if it is difficult to access free or reduced-cost healthcare in your community.  In my experience, a local judge probably has seen records from the same local healthcare providers on numerous occasions and understands the quality and quantity of healthcare available at those facilities. Expert witnesses are more likely to appear in person as well.   If a judge takes testimony from a Medical Expert (ME), the ME typically appears either by telephone or in the ALJ’s courtroom.  The ME at your hearing has never seen you in … Continued

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June 23, 2011

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Hearings Office Holds Numerous Video Hearings

Times are changing and with advances in technology and an increase in Indiana Social Security disability claims it may be a good thing depending on your perspective.  If you have been waiting on a Social Security disability appeals hearing in Indiana you just might find yourself in a hearings office staring at a television monitor.  Does that sound impersonal?  Well, the Social Security Administration says you have a choice if you notify them in time so that you can be heard in person.  Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis believes there can be advantages and disadvantages to a video hearing. So what can be a potential advantage?  You may get in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) sooner by accepting a video hearing.  Indiana disability lawyer Scott Lewis receives numerous calls from his clients during the long waiting process and the majority of his clients state they are in financial turmoil because they are unable to work and support their families.  The thought of turning down a video hearing and waiting for an in-person hearing with an unknown date often makes this an easy decision for these individuals struggling to put food on the table. Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis believes there can be potential drawbacks to video hearings.  One major drawback can be that the Administrative Law Judge is unable to clearly assess your disability through video teleconferencing.  This may be due to the fact the ALJ cannot see that you entered or exited the hearing room in pain and difficulty.  In Mr. Lewis’ experience at times there can also be difficulties with the audio equipment.  The audio equipment may cut in and out and there are many  times there is a delay in picking up the person’s voice that can cause individuals to talk … Continued

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November 30, 2010

Indianapolis Social Security Lawyer Scott Lewis and his Thoughts Concerning Video Hearings

The Indianapolis Office of Disability Adjudication and Review has a tremendous backlog of Social Security disability appeals waiting to be heard by Administrative Law Judges (ALJ).  This is no big secret to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and in an attempt to help alleviate the huge caseload they have turned to video hearings.  Does this mean an Indiana Social Security disability claimant will have a video hearing?  No, there is still a possibility you will appear at an “in person” hearing with the ALJ sitting right in front of you.  Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis has noticed recently that Indiana disability claimants need to expect the unexpected when dealing with Administrative Law Judges from other locations. It is not uncommon for Indiana Social Security disability attorneys to see the same Administrative Law Judges over and over at “in person” hearings at the Indianapolis Social Security hearings office.  Familiarity with the Judges can often help an Indiana Social Security disability lawyer know what to expect at the court proceeding and be well prepared for the type of questions that will be asked by the Judge.  Also, this type of familiarity will usually help the Social Security disability attorney know what particular things a certain judge is looking for to achieve a favorable outcome. Now, lets mix in an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) sitting in a courtroom peering through a small television monitor hundreds of miles away who may have never stepped foot in the state of Indiana.  You may enter the courtroom in a wheelchair, the ALJ may not see, and you may grimace in pain that he may not see, and then he speaks to you in a voice that seems to echo from the audio equipment. You look at your Indianapolis Social Security Attorney for guidance and he displays calm character … Continued

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July 6, 2009

Social Security Video Hearing – What is it and why am I having one?

Finally, your Social Security Disability claim has been scheduled for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and you have been told it is a “video hearing”.  Most Indianapolis Social Security Disability claimants may wonder what a video hearing is and why are they scheduled to have one?  Video hearings are hearings where the judge is at a different location from the claimant and will appear on a large colored television screen at your location.  The judge is able to speak, hear, or see anyone at the hearings office location.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) states that your privacy is protected and the hearing transmission is done in a secure manner.  A video hearing consists of the same elements as hearing in person.  The video hearing is not video taped but the SSA does make an audio recording.  At the local hearings room, there will be the claimant, a court reporter, and if the claimant desires representation, a Social Security Disabiltiy Attorney or representative.  Sometimes a medical expert and/or a vocational (job) expert may testify at the hearing.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) believes that using video technology may be a faster way to get a hearing, may be more convenient, and also may be more efficient.  The Indianapolis Social Security Hearing’s Office is currently one of the most backlogged hearings offices in the country.  Many video hearings take place in Indianapolis due to the tremendous backlog.   While it might be true that video hearings may be a way to expedite your social security disability case heard by a judge, there may also be some drawbacks.  A hearing held in front of a judge rather than by video may be more personal.  This may give the judge the opportunity to actually look at the claimant in close proximity enabling the judge to assess the claimant’s physical or even mental disability by being able to directly observe the claimant … Continued

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August 31, 2017

Do I Need To Appear At My Social Security Disability Appeals Hearing?

From time to time I am asked “do I need to be at my hearing?”  Always, I let my clients know that they should make every effort to appear in person.  In my practice as an Indiana Social Security Attorney, it is almost always in your best interest to attend your hearing.  My thoughts are, if you have waited this long for the big day to finally arrive and have your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim be resolved, why wouldn’t you show up?  Unless, of course, you were physically or mentally unable to be there. There are circumstances when an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will use his/her discretion to allow the claimant to appear by telephone.  Events such as hospitalization, car trouble, or incarceration may warrant such an appearance.  If you can let your attorney know well in advance, you may have a better chance of having a telephonic appearance granted by the Judge. In my experience, if you are physically and mentally able to attend your hearing in person, it may help your case.  One reason I do not prefer video hearings is that the ALJ may not be able to observe all of your problems the way they do in person.  A telephone hearing makes matters even worse.  I want the Judge to be able to see your physical or mental conditions in person.  Your inability to walk steadily, inability to sit uninterrupted during the hearing, and facial expressions could support the underlying medical records.  If the Social Security Administration (SSA) was going to make a determination on your medical records alone, that probably would have already happened.  A hearing is your chance to present your case in person and you do not want to pass on that opportunity, if at all … Continued

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July 7, 2016

Do I have a good Social Security disability case?

I hear this question probably more than any other question from my clients.  When I was in law school, one of my professors told me, “The facts always matter,” and a Social Security disability case is no exception.  It’s also important to know how Social Security applies its rules to the facts of your case when you are trying to show that you are unable to work.  While there are many variables that affect your chances of winning your claim, I have found that some factors are more important than the others. Medical treatment: One of the first things I ask potential clients is whether or not they are seeing doctors.  In order to find that you are disabled, Social Security must be able to find that you have a medically determinable impairment that affects your ability to work.   You must also have medical records that support the statements you make about how badly your symptoms affect you.  You can’t assume that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at your hearing will know that you are a trustworthy person who doesn’t exaggerate.  Even if the ALJ does find that you are a credible person, he or she will still want to see objective testing (like x-rays or MRIs) and/or progress notes from your physician that back up your testimony.  The ALJ will want proof that you are being treated by doctors who specialize in your type of impairments – for example, that you are seeing an orthopedic doctor if you have degenerative disc disease, a rheumatologist if you have fibromyalgia, a psychiatrist if you have bipolar disorder, or a neurologist if you have migraine headaches.  If your doctor is willing to provide a written statement about your work-related limitations, it can also improve your chances of a favorable outcome. Age, education, and work experience: … Continued

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October 9, 2012

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December 20, 2011

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis Comments on Possible New Hearing Policy

There have been some recent reports of a possible Office of Disability and Review (ODAR) policy regarding the non-disclosure of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) presiding over your pending hearing until the date of the hearing.  Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis believes that this type of “blindfolding” attorneys and their clients can only make the disability process even more frustrating and slow. Why could this potentially be a problem?  Experienced Social Security disability attorneys like Scott Lewis represent individuals numerous times in front of the same Administrative Law Judge and become accustomed to exactly what that particular Judge is looking for at the hearing.  To help create and ensure judicial efficiency, Mr. Lewis attempts to prepare his cases in a manner for particular Judges that will cut right to the main issues that particular Judge may focus on.  While most of Mr. Lewis’ case files are prepared in a similar fashion, there are times that when Mr. Lewis knows a certain Judge has been assigned to a claim, Mr. Lewis focuses on certain documents he knows a Judge will closely analyze. Why is this happening?  The only reason put forth thus far is that attorneys are “shopping” Judges.  When a video hearing is scheduled, the representative or claimant has the ability to deny such a hearing and request to be in front of an Administrative Law Judge in person.  Without pointing fingers, one could argue while certain attorneys are shopping Judges, we must also consider why there is a particular item no one wants to buy.  It could be asserted that this is a two way street. In the end who gets hurt?  Mr. Lewis believes good prepared qualified attorneys and Judges and above all claimants will find this decision only muddies the waters on a long drawn out … Continued

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October 14, 2011

Indiana Social Security Disability Hearings Office

Social Security disability applicants that have been denied disability benefits have the right to appeal that decision made by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  As an individual goes through the stages of appeals, he/she may eventually find him/herself in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Indiana hearings are heard at one of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) locations. Most states have more than one ODAR location.  According to the SSA, there are currently 10 regional offices, 169 hearing offices (including 7 satellite offices), 5 national hearing centers, and 1 national case assistance center. There are approximately 1,300 administrative law judges and 7,000 support staff in the field organization. Additionally, administrative law judges may travel to other sites such as local Social Security offices to conduct hearings if needed or appear by video at your location. In addition to the stated above, the SSA may use other facilities throughout the state to conduct the hearing. Don’t be surprised if you are scheduled for a hearing at the Social Security Administration office, a conference room at another facility or in a hotel or bank. Regardless of the location, the ALJ that presides over the case will still review the evidence, listen to the comments made by your disability attorney, and hear testimony from medical or vocational experts. The ODAR Chicago Region services residents in the six state area comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  Indiana residents will find their hearing scheduled at the location closest to their home.  Indiana Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis finds himself traveling throughout the state of Indiana to represent disabled individuals with their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  If you have been denied disability benefits or if you cannot work due to a disabling condition, contact Indiana … Continued

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July 15, 2011

Are Indianapolis Social Security Disability Hearing Wait Times Shrinking?

Indiana Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis has noticed a few changes concerning the waiting period for getting your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing.  Have the wait times for Social Security disability hearings been reduced?  Mr. Lewis is not so sure there is a clear cut answer to this question. The Indianapolis Indiana Social Security disability hearing office has been attempting to get the number of days you have to wait for your hearing down to a manageable number.  The use of video hearings with Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ’s) from other states presiding over the hearings held at the local Indianapolis office has seemed to make a dent in this huge backlog at times.  Although it is surprising to find an Indiana Social Security disability claimant to be at a video hearing within 12 months of their date of application, while in the next video hearing room an individual has waited for 30 months, there seems to be little explanation for why this discrepancy exists.  This can make it very difficult for Mr. Lewis to give his clients a good idea of when they might find themselves at the hearing office. There have been reports that while the Social Security Administration is taking measures to reduce the backlog, it is actually growing.  If this is indeed the case, the Social Security Administration may need to hire even more Administrative Law Judges and open more hearing offices.  Perhaps more concentration on finding individuals disabled in the earlier stages of the application process could be an answer.  Mr. Lewis knows one thing for sure: the individuals suffering the most from a hearing backlog are those disabled claimants who are unable to provide for themselves and their families. If you have questions concerning your Social Security disability claim … Continued

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