Helping People With Disabilities Nationwide

Why You Might Not Want an In-Person Disability Hearing

by | Feb 24, 2024 | SSD - Social Security Disability |

As pandemic regulations have largely subsided and Social Security has again opened hearing offices, I’ve encountered some clients who insist on having their hearing in-person instead of over the phone, which has become the standard format for these hearings.

The thinking behind this is that it’s better to be seen by a judge who is in the same room, and that if a judge can see you are in pain, or have difficulty walking, the judge will be more likely to approve your case.

While this seems like common sense, in my experience, in-person hearings seem to do almost do more harm than good.

Even before Covid-19, when the vast majority of hearings were done in-person, judges based their decisions on medical records over what they saw in-person. After all, physicians are supposed to give honest opinions based on their expertise, and it’s certainly not unheard of for someone to attempt to exaggerate symptoms in front of a judge.

There are also some things about how these hearings are conducted and the questions that are asked that may hurt your case if a judge can physically see you. Let’s say you have anxiety and tell the judge you have difficulty leaving the house or being around strangers. Insisting on attending a hearing in-person in a public place definitely weakens this argument.

Another common situation at these hearings is that someone with back pain or another physical condition will want to have a hearing in-person. The judge will almost certainly ask them how long they can sit before they have to stand. Disability hearings tend to last between 45 minutes and an hour, and if the answer is anything less than that and the claimant remains seated the entire hearing, the judge is certainly going to notice that, and again, it’s going to negatively affect the case.

Meanwhile, if a hearing is over the phone, all the judge can base the decision on is your testimony and medical records.

Of course, there can be situations where an in-person hearing really is better than a phone hearing, so it’s always best to discuss the pros and cons of your hearing format with an attorney before deciding.



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