Retention Date: Indefinite
|Intended Audience:||All ODAR Hearing Level Personnel|
|Originating Office:||ODAR Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge|
|Title:||Representative Video Project (RVP)|
|Type:||Chief Judge Bulletins|
|Link To Reference:|
The Representative Video Project (RVP) is an agency initiative that under certain circumstances authorizes representatives to use their own video conferencing equipment for video hearings. The purposes of the RVP are to provide efficient and cost effective methods of conducting hearings and to improve the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) service to the public. Allowing representatives to use agency-approved video equipment to participate in hearings offers claimants and their representatives an opportunity to save time and travel costs they would otherwise incur by appearing at the hearings in person.
The RVP initiative allows claimants and their representatives to appear at hearings from the representative’s office using the representative’s own video equipment that has been certified by SSA. Per the Agreement between the agency and the representative, the claimant and his or her representative must both appear from the same representative-owned VTC site except in instances where the Administrative Law Judge determines that it is in the best interest of the claimant to permit the claimant and his or her representative to appear from separate locations. See Section 5.1 of the Agreement. For instance, the claimant lives in a remote area and there is limited access to representation within the standard 75-mile commuting area, or the claimant moves to a different area of the country but wishes to keep a representative with whom there is an existing business relationship.
The general requirements to participate in the RVP initiative are as follows:
- Each representative participating in the RVP must sign an Agreement to follow certain guidelines and provide certain claimant protections. A copy of the Agreement is found at Attachment 1.
- Once the representative signs and submits the Agreement, the Associate Commissioner for the Office of Electronic Services and Strategic Information’s (OESSI) will review and approve the Agreement.
- After the representative has purchased and installed the equipment, or already has compatible video conferencing equipment, he or she must complete the RVP Site Registration Info Form. A copy of the RVP Site Registration Info Form is Attached. Once completed, the representative must submit the form to the RVP.IP@ssa.gov mailbox. The representative will be contacted to arrange testing and certification. When tested and certified, the representative site will be assigned a CPMS site code ###R.
- Once an RVP site has been approved, certified, and assigned a CPMS hearing site code, the Division of Electronic Services will notify all hearing office postmasters, regional office management, and video coordinators of the new RVP site. Hearing offices can begin to schedule hearings at the RVP site and the representative can use the equipment to hold hearings nationwide, subject to the guidance below.
- The official record of the hearing will be the standard audio recording made at all ODAR hearings. This audio recording will generally be made at the hearing office.
- Private video recordings of hearings are not permitted.
Even after a representative has complied and received his or her site certification, the agency has the discretion to decide not to use the representative-owned VTC equipment to conduct hearings in particular or in general. A site certification does not guarantee that a representative’s request to use his or her own VTC equipment will be granted.
Please consult the website http://odar.ba.ssa.gov/odarweb/video_hearings/index.asp
for a list of participating representatives. All questions, concerns, and requests for additional information for the RVP can be sent to the support mailbox: ^ODAR HQ Video Project.
Listed below are specific requirements for representatives to participate in the program. More information is provided in the Agreement. Also included are the specific responsibilities of the hearing offices.
I. Representative Requirements:
- Hearing offices may not schedule hearings for an RVP site until site certification is complete and the site has been assigned a CPMS code. Hearing offices should schedule hearings in the usual manner until a CPMS code is assigned. The hearing notice can be amended once a CPMS code is assigned to the RVP site.
- Participation in this representative owned VTC program does not constitute any special relationship between the representative and the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) and may not be advertised or publicized as such.
1. Representatives are responsible for all costs of acquisition, installation, and operation. SSA will not bear any of these costs. An RVP Agreement is necessary for each unique video site (location).
2. Representatives will be solely responsible for maintenance and troubleshooting of their own VTC equipment. However, SSA will provide ongoing access to a help desk to assist in troubleshooting the agency’s equipment and connections to the SSA network (SSANET).
II. Hearing Office Responsibilities:
3. Representatives must allow the region to inspect the site, and the region has the right to initiate a decertification action if there are problems with the equipment. If a representative is found not in compliance or fails to abide by any provision of the Agreement, SSA may terminate the certification or participation in the RVP.
4. Each room used for video hearings must have the following:
a. compatible video equipment with pan and zoom ability;
b. a facsimile machine for exchanging evidence; and
c. a computer configured to display the SSA electronic folder to allow the claimant an opportunity to review the evidence.
5. The video equipment must connect to the SSANET by means of secure Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) or Internet Protocol (IP) data lines.
6. If the representative is approved /certified by the time the Request for Hearing (Form HA-501) is filed, they are required to declare that he or she is a private video site and provide his or her site code in the remarks section. If the representative does not use a Form HA-501, Request for Hearing, the representative must make clear on any type of request for hearing that he or she is a private video site and provide his or her code.
7. When contacted to schedule a hearing, the representative is required to inform the scheduler that he or she is a RVP site and provide his or her site code to the scheduler if they wish the hearing to be held using RVP.
1. Hearing Office staff must schedule RVP hearings using the correct Case Processing and Management System (CPMS) site code ###R.
2. Any RVP hearing must be scheduled with the VCCC.
a. The VCCC will program the bridging equipment to dial out to any sites up to 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled time for the hearing.
3. Hearing Office staff scheduling the hearings must complete the off-network call reservation document at least three weeks in advance of the hearing date. The off-network call reservation document can be found at:
4. Calls between a RVP site and an Administrative Law Judge desktop unit present a unique challenge, since the Verbatim Hearing Reporter (VHR) cannot be present in either location. Each hearing location has extra Digital Recording (DR) units that can be used for this circumstance. In these types of hearings, the offices have three options.
b. Hearing offices can request less than 30 minutes if there are back to back hearings scheduled.
a. Connect an additional DR unit in the Judge’s office and local staff will operate the equipment (See instructions on the DR website: ODAR Quick Guide Portable System Setup).
b. Establish an audio only phone call to a DR site where entry of the notes and recording of the audio will occur.
c. Schedule a three party video bridge between the Desktop Video Unit (DVU), the RVP site, and a DR site for recording and entry of the notes.
6. E-mail completed forms to the VCCC at ^Video Reservations.
7. Direct questions that arise during the hearing to the VCCC (410-966-9300 Option 2). General questions should be sent to the video project team at: ^ODAR HQ Video Project.
Direct all program–related and technical questions to your ODAR RO support staff. RO support staff may refer questions or unresolved issues to their contacts at ODAR headquarters.
The CJB includes 3 attachments. The RVP Agreement is Attachment 1. The RVP Agreement includes two attachments. The Equipment Specifications/Protocols for Private VTC Sites, which is Attachment 2, and the Facility Requirements for Private VTC Sites, which is Attachment 3.
AGREEMENT BETWEEN ___________________________ (Representative) AND THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (SSA) FOR USE OF REPRESENTATIVE VIDEO TELECONFERENCE (VTC) EQUIPMENT LOCATED AT (Specify location)
___________________________________________________________________________ IN SSA ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE (ALJ) HEARINGS
The purpose of this agreement (Agreement) is to provide to a representative of Social Security claimant(s) (Representative) the opportunity to use privately owned video teleconference (VTC) equipment to participate in hearings conducted by Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) of SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). The Representative Video Project (RVP) provides efficient and cost effective alternative means of conducting hearings and improving SSA’s service to the public. Using representative-owned VTC equipment to participate in hearings offers claimants and their representatives an opportunity to save time and travel costs that they would otherwise incur by appearing at a hearing in person.
SSA’s rules permitting a party or parties to an ALJ hearing and/or a witness or witnesses to appear by VTC are set out in 20 CFR, Parts 404 and 416, sections 404.929, 404.936, 404.938, 404.950, 416.1429, 416.1436, 416.1438 and 416.1450.
Participation by the Representative in this representative-owned VTC program is voluntary. SSA will not bear any of the costs for the acquisition, installation, or operation of a representative-owned VTC equipment and site. The purchase of all necessary VTC and data lines required to connect the representative-owned VTC site to the public network is the sole responsibility of the Representative. The Representative will retain sole ownership of the VTC equipment purchased for use under this Agreement.
The Representative may not charge to claimants general operating expenses for a privately owned VTC site, including, but not limited to, costs incurred by the Representative to purchase the necessary VTC and supplementary equipment and to establish and maintain monthly access to the public network or any circuit usage charges for individual calls initiated by the Representative or claimants at the representative-owned VTC site.
The Representative will be solely responsible for maintenance and troubleshooting of VTC equipment. However, SSA will provide ongoing access to a help desk to assist in initial certification, equipment connectivity testing and troubleshooting the equipment and connections to the SSA network (SSANET).
Prior to use in hearings, all representative-owned VTC equipment must be tested and certified by SSA as:
· Compatible with SSANET equipment;
SSA may decertify representative-owned VTC sites or may terminate the participation of an individual VTC site in the program at any time for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of this Agreement (see Section VII below).
SSA makes no guarantee that the representative-owned VTC equipment or site will be used for any particular hearing. Scheduling of hearing by VTC equipment will be subject to the availability of video equipped ODAR hearing space. The ALJ presiding over the particular hearing will schedule the time and place of the hearing and will determine the manner in which the various participants must appear before the ALJ (i.e., in person or by means of VTC).
Participation in this representative-owned VTC program does not constitute any special relationship between the Representative and SSA or ODAR and may not be advertised or publicized as such.
· Able to connect to SSANET through the public network; and
· Meeting the video and audio standards found in Attachment 1.
1. SSA will provide to the Representative information about the representative-owned VTC program, requirements for equipment and site, and a copy of the fully executed Agreement.
2. SSA will test and certify individual representative-owned VTC sites as compatible with SSANET equipment, able to connect to SSANET through the public switch network and able to sustain audio and video connectivity sufficient to conduct and record the ALJ hearing.
3. A representative of SSA may request to meet with the Representative at the Representative’s VTC site prior to certification or at a later date. If SSA deems that a meeting is necessary, the SSA representative may inspect the site to ensure it meets, or continues to meet, all of the requirements necessary to participate as a representative-owned VTC site.
4. Once the Representative’s VTC site has been tested and certified for participation in the representative-owned VTC program, SSA will:
a. Provide SSA video bridging and gateway services;
b. Work with the Representative during start-up and certification process to resolve questions;
c. Assign the site an identifying code. The Representative will be instructed to use this code in all future communications with the hearing office when requesting or scheduling hearings;
d. Provide on-going help desk services;
e. Initiate VTC calls for conducting hearings when the configuration of the network or equipment permits SSA to make a direct call to the representative-owned VTC site. Certain technical issues may occasionally make it necessary for the Representative to dial out from the privately owned VTC site to be connected to SSA; and
f. Bear the cost of circuit usage charges for any calls initiated or dialed by SSA. The Representative will be responsible for the cost of circuit usage charges for any call initiated or dialed by participants at the Representative’s VTC site. As indicated previously, such circuit usage charges are considered to be out of pocket costs for the Representative and may not be charged to claimants.
The Representative will:
B. Representative Responsibilities
V. CLAIMANT PROTECTIONS
The preamble to SSA’s VTC regulations (68 FR 5210, 5211, February 3, 2003; 68 FR 69003, 69005-69006, December 11, 2003) noted that participating in hearings by VTC from private facilities, such as facilities owned by a law firm, could be possible at a future date. The preamble also stated that, regardless of the type of facility used, SSA would make certain that claimants have the same access to the hearing record that they would have if appearing in person before the ALJ; that there is a means of transmitting and receiving additional evidence between all locations and all participants; that a person is present to operate the equipment and provide other help; and that the audio/video transmission uses secure data lines so that the individual’s privacy is protected.
Accordingly, the Representative, when participating from his or her own VTC site, will be asked to certify on the record in each individual case that the following claimant protections are in place.
1. Provide SSA with a signed original of this Agreement;
2. Adhere to all requirements and claimant protections established in this Agreement;
3. Provide VTC equipment that meets the technical specifications set out in Attachment 1 of this Agreement;
4. Complete the certification process to ensure that VTC equipment can connect to the SSA network and sustain the necessary audio and video connections required to conduct a hearing;
5. Provide maintenance and troubleshooting of VTC equipment to maintain optimum operation before and during calls and to ensure that equipment or transmission problems can be corrected quickly to minimize delays in the hearing process;
6. Equip the VTC site as specified in Attachment 2 of this Agreement;
7. Ensure that the VTC site surroundings are fully under the Representative’s control, affording privacy, security and well-maintained basic amenities such as restroom access;
8. Inform the hearing office that it wishes to schedule a hearing using representative-owned VTC equipment by adding a comment to that effect in the comment block of the existing Request for Hearing (Form HA-501-US), or by informing the hearing scheduler when he or she contacts the Representative to schedule the hearing. The Representative must provide the appropriate identifying code for the certified representative-owned VTC site and indicate whether the call will be point-to-point (hearing office to representative’s VTC site) or there is a need to involve participants in additional locations (multi-point) within the SSANET or at off SSANET sites; and
9. Meet with a local SSA representative, if requested by SSA, for the inspection of the representative-owned VTC site.
VI. DURATION OF AGREEMENT
This Agreement will be effective upon signature of both parties to the Agreement and will remain in effect unless terminated by either party in accordance with Section VII.
1. The claimant and his or her representative must both appear from the same representative-owned VTC site, except in instances where the ALJ determines that it is in the best interests of the claimant to permit the claimant and his or her representative to appear from separate locations. Examples of such exceptions would be when the claimant lives in a remote area and there is limited access to representation within the standard 75 mile commuting area, or when the claimant moves to a different area of the country but wishes to keep a representative with whom there is an existing business relationship. Please note that any and all non-SSA locations being used for a multi-point connection must be certified as a representative-owned VTC site and otherwise meet all the requirements for this program.
2. The representative must obtain advance permission from the presiding ALJ and the claimant before permitting any persons whose presence is not ordinarily required for the hearing proceeding to be present in the Representative’s VTC room during the hearing and/or to see or hear any part of the hearing.
3. The official record of the hearing will be the standard audio-only recording customarily made at all ODAR hearings. This audio recording will generally be made at the hearing office.
4. Private video recordings of hearings are not permitted.
5. Claimants must have the opportunity to review the evidence contained in their claim folder prior to the hearing. For a non-electronic claim, the Representative may request that SSA send the paper claim folder to a local field office where the claimant may access it. SSA will provide copies of electronic claim folders on CDs. If SSA provides copies of the electronic folder on a CD, the Representative will be responsible for ensuring that a desktop or laptop computer, configured to display the SSA electronic folder, is available for the claimant to use for reviewing the evidence.
6. At the beginning of each hearing, the presiding ALJ will ensure that the Representative certifies under oath or affirmation, or in a writing included in the record, to his or her compliance with the rules and requirements of the representative-owned VTC program, as follows:
7. An ALJ presiding at a hearing conducted in connection with this program may postpone the hearing if the ALJ learns that the Representative or the Representative’s VTC site may not be in compliance with the rules, instructions, protocols, and requirements of this program. The ALJ will alert management about his or her concerns. Management will then investigate and determine if any deficiencies are present. If deficiencies are found, management may permit the Representative an appropriate amount of time to become compliant or the hearing may be rescheduled in person or via an SSA VTC site. If no deficiencies are found, management will notify the hearing office staff that it is permissible to continue scheduling and holding hearings with the Representative owned VTC site.
a. Representatives will certify on the record that they are responsible for providing the claimant with any technical assistance necessary for the claimant to fully participate in the VTC hearing.
b. Representatives will certify on the record that all required equipment being used meets or exceeds the specifications indicated in this Agreement and that it is operating properly.
c. Representatives will certify on the record that the claimant has had an opportunity to review the evidence in the claim folder prior to the hearing.
d. Representatives will provide the presiding ALJ with the names of all persons present at the representative-owned VTC site and certify on the record that the only persons who will be permitted to attend the hearing at the private VTC site will be those whom the claimant consents to having present and the ALJ considers necessary and proper to the proceeding.
e. Representatives will certify on the record that no video recordings are being made of the proceeding.
8. If technical difficulties arise that affect the quality of the video or audio transmissions, hearing office staff, the Representative’s technical staff and the help desk will work to isolate the source of the problem and correct it if possible. ODAR will make every attempt to complete scheduled hearings. If a hearing cannot be completed as scheduled due to technical difficulties, the ALJ may reschedule the hearings to be held in person or via an SSA VTC site. If the source of the technical difficulty is determined to be equipment or connectivity at the Representative’s VTC site, the Representative will be responsible for making any necessary repairs or adjustments prior to being allowed to participate in any future hearings from the Representative’s VTC site. Any ongoing technical difficulties determined to be caused by equipment or connectivity at the Representative’s VTC site may result in that site losing its certification.
SSA may terminate this Agreement if the Representative fails to abide by any of the provisions of this Agreement with respect to such site. SSA may also terminate this Agreement if SSA determines that the Representative has violated any provision of the Rules of Conduct and Standards of Responsibility for Representatives found at 20 C.F.R. 404.1740 and 416.1540 during any aspect of the program. Termination of this Agreement will not prohibit SSA from imposing other administrative sanctions that are permitted by law or regulation.
Any ongoing technical difficulties determined to be caused by equipment or connectivity at the representative-owned VTC site may result in that site losing its certification. Before cancelling the site certification or terminating this Agreement, SSA will notify the Representative in writing of its intent to cancel the site certification or to terminate this Agreement and the reason for such action. SSA will give the Representative twenty (20) calendar days to correct the technical difficulties threatening its certification or to contest the termination in writing, as applicable. SSA will then determine whether to cancel the site certification or to terminate the Agreement and will issue a written notice of cancellation or termination. Immediately upon receiving such notice, the Representative must cease conducting further SSA hearings or other SSA proceedings using the representative-owned VTC equipment. If, at a later date, the Representative corrects the technical difficulties that caused a cancellation of its certification, it may request another certification. Re-issuance of a certification for a VTC equipment and site will be at SSA’s sole discretion.
The signatories below warrant and represent that they have competent authority on behalf of the respective party to enter into the obligations set forth in this Agreement.
Representative Social Security Administration
Equipment Specifications/Protocols for Private VTC Sites
At a minimum, off-SSANET video equipment must be H.320 and/or H.323 compatible and must support the following International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standards and versions:
H.320 is the ITU Standard for ISDN conferencing and includes:
Audio: G.711, G.722, G.722.1, G.728
Video: H.264, H.263+, H.263++, H.261
Data: H.239, T.120
Control: H.221, H.231, H.242, H.243
Preferences are to use ITU H.281 over H.224 [also known as Far-end Camera Control (FECC)]
H.323 is the ITU standard for IP (LAN) conferencing and includes:
Audio: G.711, G.722, G.722.1, G.723.1, G.728, G.729
Video: H.264, H.263+, H.263++, H.261
Data: H.239, T.120
Control: H.225, H.245
Preferences are to use H.264 for video and G.722 or G.722.1 for audio.
Preferences are to use ITU H.281 over H.224 [also known as Far-end Camera Control (FECC)]
Non-SSA network users are required to use an SSA-provided third party bridging service. SSA does not permit internet, direct IP, or IP access to SSA data network. IP connectivity must meet the bandwidth needs for a 384k call. The IP address must be a public static address. The Representative is responsible for the initial one-time start up fee for the private site as well as for monthly usage fees from their service provider for the IP connectivity and circuit usage charges for individual calls made.
The SSA standard (and current maximum) call rate is 384Kbps. All SSA video equipment supports H.323 version 4 or higher. The 384Kbps call rate provides full motion standard definition video conferencing.
All transmissions must be encrypted using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) method of encryption. The system must be compliant with Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 197 (FIPS) 197.
SSA will assist in setting up test calls and will provide a contact person to respond to technical questions required for certification. The Representative for the site being certified must provide a technical contact person to work with SSA.
The private VTC camera must have the ability to pan and zoom to offer complete views of the room, as well as close up views. The size of the monitor may vary depending on how far participants are seated away from the monitor and camera. Nevertheless, the room must have sufficient depth to permit the camera to pan and zoom so as to visualize the entire room or individual participants.
Some video systems will accept add-on telephone line that lets users make telephone calls through the video system and includes third party audio calls. This telephone lines provides audio backup in the event transmission problems occur. The telephone add-on feature is optional for private VTC sites, but if used, will require a dedicated analog telephone line.
NOTE: A separate conference telephone can cause sound interference and should not be used at the same time that the video is in use. All audio add-ons should use a voice add-on line.
The Representative must have available a high-speed facsimile machine in the room or in an adjacent room for the exchange of evidence with the Hearing Office. The facsimile machine will require an analog telephone line. A 2 MB (120 page) memory capacity is recommended.
The Representative must also have available at least one computer with a CD drive capable of providing the claimant with access to an electronic copy of the claim file before and during the hearing.
Important: If any material changes are made to either your network configuration or your IP video endpoint equipment, you will need to re-certify your site to ensure that it is configured properly to participate in video teleconference hearings. Examples of material changes include (but are not limited to):
· An upgrade/substantive change to your network configuration
At time of initial certification, your office will receive an email with instruction on where to call to certify your site. Please keep this information – in the event that your office needs to re-certify, the contact information, processes, and site identification information will be the same as in this email. Re-certification must be completed at least 24 hours prior to your next schedule video teleconference hearing
· Any change to your public, static IP address
· Any change to your IP endpoint video equipment
Attachment 3Facility Requirements for Private VTC Sites
· The Representative must identify a private conference room space for placement of the VTC equipment. This space must be under the ownership or control of the Representative.
· The room should have sufficient depth to allow for proper camera focus as well as pan and zoom functions.
· The room must be in a quiet area of the building and preferably have a single type of lighting (incandescent, fluorescent). Sunlight should be avoided to prevent glare. For best picture and color, the Representative should use neutral colors, simple backdrops, glare reduction and single source lighting. Lighting should be at a 45 degree angle on participants faces where possible as lighting that is directly overhead can make it difficult to see faces.
· The room must be arranged so the camera has a clear, unobstructed view of the claimant, the Representative, and any witnesses. All participants should have a clear, unobstructed view of the monitor. The camera should have space to back off sufficiently to view all participants at once or zoom in to a single speaker.
· The site must meet the accessibility requirements set out in Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
CJB 11-04 - Representative Video Project (RVP) - 08/17/2011