Five Reasons Social Security Disability Hearings Are Better by Phone Than In PersonPosted August 26, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®
Social Security Disability hearings with administrative law judges (ALJs) are—no doubt—stressful events. You’re ill and you must explain to a judge why you can’t work full-time. In my thirty years in front of these judges at thousands of hearings, the gravity of these hearings has not escaped me.
When COVID hit, Social Security shifted from in-person hearings to phone hearings. Social Security still mostly holds phone hearings. This decision is wise given that disabled people can have compromised immune systems.
Social Security does allow you to postpone your disability hearing if you’d prefer to conduct it in person. Asking for an in-person hearing, however, means indefinite delay. If you want your Social Security hearing soon, a phone or video hearing is presently the only option. Most ALJs and attorneys currently work from home, doing phone hearings and some video hearings.
After doing phone hearings for over a year into the pandemic, I believe phone hearings and video hearings from home have five advantages over in-person hearings.
- Phone hearings require no travel. In-person hearings require travel to hearing locations, sometimes hours away. They also raise questions about getting a ride, bad travel weather, having money for gas, and finding parking. Phone hearings have none of these issues.
- Phone hearings are less stressful. At times, my clients have had great difficulty finding hearing sites and getting through security. After sitting in a crowded waiting room, some of my clients could not settle in and focus during their Social Security hearings. Phone hearings let you stay home without the distractions of a new location.
- Phone hearings require less planning. Before in-person hearings, many of my clients asked me these kinds of questions: “What do I wear?” “Do I look at the judge?” “Where am I supposed to sit?” “What if I cry?” Phone hearings reduce or eliminate many of these concerns.
- Phone hearings are more practical. Some of my clients have significant difficulty getting through a grocery store or up steps. For these clients, getting into a building, a waiting room, and then into a small hearing room was almost impossible. Phone hearings don’t require a certain level of mobility.
- Phone hearings are fairer. In my experience, ALJs are not good at deciding if my clients “look” disabled or not. ALJs would question my clients about why their canes did not appear worn or how they could sit in the hearing for an hour without getting up. Phone hearings (and at-home video hearings) allow ALJs to focus on the testimony, not appearances.
While in-person hearings are available again, they will likely remain optional. For the above reasons, I usually recommend that my clients request to appear by phone.
If you need any assistance in filing your disability claim, please contact our office today!