Postponing a Social Security Disability Hearing

Posted November 6, 2015 by Premier Disability Services, LLC® In many cases, a Social Security Disability claimant may wait almost two years to have their hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge scheduled for a specific date and time.  The increasing wait times further increase how valuable hearing dates actually are to both claimants and the Social Security Administration (SSA).  However, even though a claimant’s hearing date is extremely valuable, there may be circumstances where a claimant needs to postpone their hearing to a later date.

There are two main circumstances that pretty much always justify postponing a hearing: 1) severe weather makes it impossible for you or your representative to travel to the hearing and 2) a serious physical or mental condition or incapacitating injury makes it impossible for you or your representative to travel to the hearing, or a death in the family occurs.  (See 20 CFR 416.1436).  These two situations are not the only reasons SSA will postpone a hearing.  Essentially, SSA will consider any good reason provided by the claimant and/or representative in considering whether it is appropriate to postpone a hearing.  Other common reasons a hearing is postponed include:

♦  A claimant is unsuccessful in obtaining representation prior to the hearing and needs additional time to do so

♦  A representative has been appointed within 30 days of the scheduled hearing and needs additional time to prepare for the hearing;

♦  Transportation is not readily available for a claimant to travel to the hearing;

♦  The claimant’s representative has a prior commitment to be in another court or at another administrative hearing on the date of the scheduled hearing; or

♦  The claimant is unrepresented, and they are unable to respond to the notice of hearing because of any physical, mental, educational, or linguistic limitations (including any lack of facility with the English language).

This is not an exhaustive list.  As stated above, if a claimant has a valid reason for requesting postponement, SSA will consider that reason to determine if moving the hearing date is appropriate.  It is also important to remember that postponing a hearing is not a guarantee.  An Administrative Law Judge has discretion in changing the time and place of a hearing.  If possible, a claimant should try to produce evidence supporting the reason for postponement.  For example, a claimant who is scheduled to have surgery the day before their hearing will likely be successful in postponing their hearing.  To be safe, it is a good idea for that claimant to submit something to the hearing office from the medical facility performing the surgery confirming the details of the procedure.

On the other hand, there are circumstances where requesting postponement is simply not a good idea.  Requesting postponement due to the fact that the claimant cannot get the day off work is one reason in particular that does not shed a positive light on that claimant’s case.  Even if the Judge accepts that reason as valid, it could undercut the validity of the claimant’s stance that they are disabled and unable to work.  In addition, we have seen mixed results when a claimant requests postponement due to traveling out of town.  If there is a good reason behind the travel, such as traveling to be with a sick relative, we have generally found that the Judge will approve postponement.  However, trying to postpone due to the fact that the claimant had planned a vacation for that day does not sit well with many hearing offices and may not be successful.

If you are currently unrepresented and seeking to request postponement, you should contact your Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) to discuss changing the hearing date.  In most cases, the ODAR office will ask for a simple letter detailing the reasons you need a postponement.  If you are represented, speak with your representative about your circumstances and they will likely handle the correspondence with ODAR.  However, because of the valuable nature of hearing dates and times, it is wise to use these requests only when absolutely necessary.

By: Thomas A. Klint of Premier Disability Services, LLC®