If Social Security Administration has denied your claim for disability benefits, you have a right to personal appearance before an administrative law judge to present evidence supporting your claim. The right to appear in person may be waived, though an administrative law judge may still schedule a hearing if he or she believes it would be helpful in deciding your case. Social Security Administration may also opt to conduct the hearing via video teleconferencing (VTC), though the claimant has the right to object. While a VTC hearing may be speedier and more convenient in some situations, there are compelling reasons to appear in person.
Often, a VTC hearing will have a judge from a city or state different from that of the claimant. A non-local judge may not be familiar with the reputations of your doctors, facilities, or community standards if he or she is not from the area. An out-of-town judge may also be less likely to empathize with a local claimant, especially if they are never actually in the same room.
A VTC hearing is often conducted in a field office or other facility which was not designed for courtroom hearings. The administration will bring in video equipment to set up on a small desk and ask you to not to trip over the wires. While the technology is impressive when it works, it is not uncommon to experience technical delays in recording the hearing.
Lastly, a typical disability file may have hundreds of pages of evidence, but printed words are not the only way to communicate or influence. At a live hearing, the administrative law judge has a better opportunity to notice of your physical actions, gestures, tone and demeanor. These sights, sounds, and even smells might not be captured on a video screen or reproduced to the same effect on a paper transcript. While the administrative law judge should articulate these observations in his or her written decision, your physical presence at a live hearing can influence the outcome of the case in ways video teleconferencing cannot capture.