SSA takes claims appeals online, too

Not only has the Social Security Administration digitized the process of filing for disability benefits, the agency also conducts disability appeals hearings online.

When the state determination office denies a claim for disability benefits, the individual can request a hearing before a federal administrative law judge at an SSA office.

Proceedings are conducted through a videoconference, which SSA records digitally. The agency stores the audio files along with all other data related to the claimant in the electronic folder, said Bill Gray, SSA deputy commissioner for systems.

The agency has conducted more than 5,000 such electronic hearings so far.

For example, administrative appeals judges in San Diego last year were helping judges in Wisconsin reduce that state's backlog of cases.

'Without video teleconferencing and an e-folder, you could not have done that,' he said.

The case management system for SSA's Office of Hearings and Appeals interfaces with the electronic folder that stores the claimant's information and medical evidence, and lets staff access and update the file.

The judge, who sits in the hearing room, the attorney representing the claimant and the medical expert all look at the case on an electronic monitor.

'They press a button to get to evidence instead of flipping through pages. It's much easier than it ever was on paper,' Gray said.

Social Security uses 430 videoconferencing systems from Polycom Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., connected through the multiprotocol label-switching data network, with quality of service provisioning for each video call.

The agency also uses set-top units and multipoint control units from Polycom for bridging third-party video calls across the nation.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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