The 2020 pandemic forced many businesses to close office doors and shift to a work from home model. This included the Social Security Administration (SSA). As their offices were forced closed across the country for safety reasons, the SSA needed to find new ways to continue reviewing disability cases. With that, video hearings were born. Through these virtual hearings, claimants, their legal representation, ALJs and any other hearing participants can safely meet without needing to be in the same location. But will the video hearings be here to stay?
Impact of Video Hearings
After being introduced in the fall of 2020, video hearings helped the SSA speed up processing time, lessening the wait time for a decision for claimants. Using Microsoft Teams platform*, the SSA gave claimants and their representatives the option to have a safe and secure hearing while remaining at home. Hearings can be access from any smart device that has camera, such as a computer, phone, or tablet. Judges, claimants, legal counsel and any witnesses or experts can all still join the hearings as if they were in person.
Videos and phone hearings became the only option for those waiting to see an Admirative Law Judge (ALJ) in September of 2020. By the end of February 2021, the SSA had reduced the number of people waiting for a hearing to 376,000**. This is the lowest amount of people waiting for a hearing the SSA has seen in almost 20 years. In addition, the average wait time for a hearing was reduced to 9 months.
Disability Determination Services (DDS) has also been able to decrease the number of pending initial disability claims. They reduced the number of people waiting for a decision on their initial claim by about 100,000 cases once August 2020. This helped reduce the wait time to schedule a video hearing as more people are finding out their decisions sooner.
Although the SSA has not stated if they plan to continue utilizing video hearings when offices reopen to the public, many disability attorneys and advocates are pushing for video hearings to remain. They provide the same services as in-person hearings, but in a more efficient manner. The SSA has proved they can process cases in a more timely manner and reduce the number of pending cases they have through the video hearings.
What It Means for Your Firm
As the SSA continues to utilize virtual hearings, your firm will likely find that claims are resolved faster. Though this can result in less back pay for some claimants, with cases being processed faster your firm can take on more cases than ever. As your firm is able to handle more cases due to the quick decisions, you’ll likely find that your higher volume of cases will make up for the smaller back pay claimants are receiving. Because of this, it’s important you firm finds new ways to capitalize on the virtual hearings.
How to Capitalize on the Success of Video Hearings
There are a number of benefits of having virtual hearings that your firm can utilize on. No longer does your firm need to limit the geographical areas where you take cases. With no travel necessary, consider taking cases in states that have less competition for a disability lead.
You can also take cases based on the SSA’s hearing offices approval ratings. Look for hearing offices with a high approval rating and expand your geographical areas to receive cases from the surrounding areas. For example, if your firm is located in Arkansas, you may not have considered taking cases in Hawaii before. But with an approval rating of 65.40% at the Honolulu Hearing Office from September 9, 2020 through April 30, 2021, your firm may want to expand into this state.
Not only can you take cases in areas where the hearing offices have a high approval rating, your firm can now take cases nationwide. Travel costs and restrictions no longer need to limit your firm to local areas. Taking leads nationwide will allow your firm have a constant flow of leads.
eGen can help your firm make the most of these virtual hearings. We’ve generate leads nationwide. This allows clients to screen their Social Security disability leads based on state, city, even a three-digit zip code prefix. In addition, our leads are exclusive and sent in real time. Receive contact information and a brief case description for a lead as soon as they indicated interested in speaking with an attorney. For more information about or SSD leads, contact eGen today!
* https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/2020/#9-2020-1 **https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/2021/#3-2021-2