What are video teleconferencing (VTC) hearings? Are VTC hearings being heard quicker? Can the client go to the VTC for the ALJ hearing by him/herself?
ALJ hearings may be conducted using video teleconferencing (VTC) equipment, rather than in-person, if there is equipment available to conduct a VTC hearing and if this would be more efficient than conducting an appearance in person. Applicants have a right to object to a VTC hearing if using the VTC model would cause undue hardship or for other reasons specified in HALLEX regulations.
Here is a link to SSA data on length of time it takes to get a hearing, by hearing office: https://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/01_NetStat_Report.html. You can also see how many video vs. in person hearings a particular office does, though there is much local variation on how cases are assigned to in-person vs. video dockets. While VTC hearings generally come up quicker, this is in the context of long wait times for hearing scheduling generally.
It is our opinion that all applicants at the hearing level should be represented by someone who is knowledgeable about preparing and presenting claims at the ALJ level. ODAR will have a staffer who will assist with the equipment, but not much more than that. An advocate will be able to directly examine the applicant and cross examine any experts that are present, e.g. vocational and/or medical experts.