I-2-6-15.Hearing by Video Teleconferencing (VTC) or Telephone
Last Update: 7/21/16 (Transmittal I-2-178)
A. Participant in Hearing Appears by VTC or Telephone
Administrative law judges (ALJ) generally conduct hearings in which one or more participants appear by VTC or telephone in the same manner as in-person hearings (using the procedures in Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-6). However, an ALJ will consider the additional issues noted below.
For technical guidance on VTC hearings, see hearing office electronic business process (eBP) section 4.2.
1. Security Guards (Remote Sites Only)
If one or more parties appear at a remote site, an ALJ must determine whether a security guard needs to be present at the remote site.
2. Access to the Record
A claimant's right to access to the record is the same whether he or she appears at a hearing in person, by VTC, or by telephone. For the general policy regarding providing an opportunity to examine the claim(s) file and proposed exhibits, see HALLEX I-2-1-35.
3. New Evidence
ALJs and hearing office (HO) or National Hearing Center (NHC) staff should encourage claimants and representatives who appear by VTC or telephone to submit new evidence to the ALJ well in advance of the hearing date. For VTC appearances, depending on the capacity at the remote site, evidence the claimant brings to the hearing may be faxed to the ALJ, but the quantity may be limited in certain instances. In some cases, the ALJ will need the claimant or representative to mail larger quantities of evidence to the HO.
4. Hearing Recordings
The hearing will be recorded in audio only, either at the remote site or at the HO.
For VTC appearances by a claimant, the hearing monitor will usually be at the remote location in order to obtain the best audio recording of the claimant's testimony. However, in some network or off-network call-in situations, the hearing recording will be made from the HO location.
5. Audio and Visual Considerations
If multiple participants are testifying by different means (e.g., one participant by telephone, another in-person, and another by VTC), the ALJ must ensure that all participants are able to hear the ALJ and other participants.
Additionally, if the SSA network is being used for a VTC hearing, the ALJ can direct control of the cameras at both the HO and the remote site. The ALJ should ensure that each hearing participant can be seen by all other hearing participants when speaking or testifying. If remote control of the camera is not available, the ALJ and the hearing monitor must coordinate the placement of individuals to ensure that they can be seen.
6. Opening Statement
As part of the opening statement on the record, ALJs should provide the claimant and representative the following information about participating in a hearing by VTC or by telephone:
The hearing is conducted in the same way as an in-person hearing except that the ALJ will communicate through the VTC monitor or via telephone.
If an expert witness is scheduled to appear by VTC or telephone, explain where the witness is located and that the claimant will be able to see, hear, and speak to the expert witness through the VTC monitor or through the telephone.
An audio (but not a video) recording will be made of the proceedings by the hearing monitor.
Only one person should speak at a time to avoid overriding speech.
B. Rescheduling a Hearing for an In-person Appearance by the Claimant
The circumstances in which an ALJ will reschedule a VTC or telephone hearing for an in-person appearance by the claimant are very limited. The ALJ may do so at his or her own initiative following the guidelines in HALLEX I-2-3-10 A.1.b. (VTC appearances) or A.1.c. (telephone appearances). The ALJ may also reschedule for an in-person hearing if the claimant objects to appearing by VTC and the criteria in HALLEX I-2-3-11 A or I-2-0-21 are met.
While an ALJ is not required to consider a claimant's objection to appearing at the hearing by telephone, the ALJ may consider the objection at his or her own discretion. See HALLEX I-2-3-12 A.
In the limited circumstances in which an ALJ decides to reschedule a hearing to allow the claimant to appear in person, HO staff will reschedule the hearing based on the date the claimant filed the request for hearing. Rescheduling for an in-person appearance at a hearing does not change where the claimant falls in the queue of individuals waiting for a hearing (i.e., the hearing must be scheduled at the earliest possible opportunity considering the date of the claimant's request for hearing).