TN 7 (09-97)
DI 33025.080 Using Videoconferencing Equipment to Conduct Hearings - Policy
Disability hearing units with access to videoconferencing equipment may use that equipment to conduct disability hearings if all of the following conditions are met.
The claimant signs and returns a statement to the DHO prior to the hearing stating, “I know that I may have an in-person, face-to-face hearing and am voluntarily electing to have my disability hearing conducted via videoconferencing equipment. I understand that having my hearing conducted via videoconferencing equipment will not affect the outcome of my claim.”
The hearing follows the same format as traditional in-person, face-to-face hearings, e.g., the claimant, or his or her representative, has the right to review the record prior to the hearing, the claimant has the right to submit additional evidence, the claimant has a right to have a representative, and the claimant and any witnesses testify under oath. (These rights are set out in the initial determination notice sent to the claimant.)
A DDS/DHU employee, contractor, or other personnel (as specified in your local business process) are at the remote site with the claimant to facilitate the disability hearing process, e.g. ensuring that the videoconferencing equipment is operating properly, operating facsimile machines, etc.
Contractors acting as facilitators, i.e., non-DDS/DHU employee facilitators, must sign an agreement stating, “The contractor shall take due precaution to ensure that the confidentiality of claimant information presented as part of the videoconference hearing is not breached. Disclosure of such information may be made only pursuant to Social Security Regulation No.1 (20 CFR 401.1.). Improper disclosure is subject to penalty under the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 USC 552a, and implementing regulations and policies.”
NOTE:It is inappropriate for a DHO to consider observations provided by a facilitator unless the claimant has been advised of the facilitator's observations and has been given the opportunity to respond to them. For example, if the facilitator observes the claimant walking and moving about without apparent limitation prior to the hearing and then observes the claimant exhibiting or relating a marked limitation in his or her ability to move about during the hearing, the facilitator may advise the DHO that the claimant was observed prior to the hearing walking and moving about without any apparent limitation. However the DHO may not consider the facilitator's statement in making his or her determination unless the facilitator's statement is made part of the record and the claimant is given the opportunity to respond to the facilitator's statement.
The DHO should terminate any hearing conducted via videoconferencing equipment and schedule a face-to-face, in-person hearing if the DHO believes that he or she cannot effectively conduct the hearing, or believes that the claimant is not able to effectively present his or her claim because of the video format.