As the federal government continues to loosen restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person hearings can now be scheduled much more quickly than even just last year.
But is an in-person hearing right for you? There’s still several things to consider before you request an in-person hearing, as phone hearings are still the default.
The first issue many claimants are discovering is that in-person hearings simply may not be available that close to them. Some in-person hearings are requiring a two or three hour drive, and they can be scheduled as early as 8 a.m.
Even though winter is just wrapping up, weather can delay these hearings well. If a snowstorm comes through the day of a hearing, many judges will see if you want to have a phone hearing, or postpone the in-person hearing by several months.
While some claimants think there is a benefit to having a judge see them in-person, that can be a double edged sword. Yes, some judges can be swayed if you physically appear to be in even worse condition than what your records state. However, it’s not uncommon for some claimants to appear for a hearing using a cane or walker that’s never mentioned in their file, and that can actually raise red flags with a judge that would otherwise be avoided with a phone hearing.
On the other hand, phone hearings have their drawbacks as well. If you live in an area with poor reception, the call can be dropped. If the judge can’t get ahold of you after that, the hearing will be postponed several months. Sometimes, judges will just schedule in-person hearings.
And while it’s rare, every now and then, Social Security is unable to get a proper recording of a phone hearing. When that happens, you guessed it, a whole new hearing has to be scheduled.
Whether you should request to have a disability hearing by phone or in-person is really something that should be decided on case-by-case basis, but your lawyer can help you make the decision that’s best for you.