Claimants who have been denied Social Security Disability benefits can wait months or even years to plead their case before an administrative law judge. When a hearing is finally scheduled, attendance is important. The hearing office is required to provide at least 75 days advance written notice of the hearing. Hearings may be conducted in person, by video teleconferencing (VTC), or by telephone. If you cannot make your scheduled appointment time, you or your appointed representative should notify the Social Security Administration Hearing Office immediately to request a postponement.
If you fail to appear at a hearing and postponement is not granted, an administrative law judge will require a showing of “good cause.” A finding of good cause is not taken lightly, though the judge will consider whether the claimant received proper notification from the agency, as well as any unusual or unforeseeable circumstances around the situation. Generally, hospitalization for serious illness or severe inclement weather will satisfy the requirements of good cause.
Without a showing of good cause, the judge could determine that the claimant has constructively waived the right to appear at the hearing, and issue a dismissal for failure to appear. Alternately, if a preponderance of the evidence supports a favorable decision on every issue, the ALJ will consider whether it is appropriate to issue a fully favorable decision instead of dismissing the case. An immediate dismissal is never appropriate where an appointed representative appears at your hearing. If you have appointed a firm to represent you, do not assume that your appointed representative can readily appear on your behalf. Especially in larger firms, there are often changes in personnel given the long time waiting for a hearing. It is important that your representative have updated forms at the hearing to represent you.