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Video Disability Hearing v. In-Person Disability Hearing, What’s the Difference?

If you have filed for Social Security disability and your claim has been denied, you may be offered a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) via video teleconference (VTC) instead of an in-person hearing. Having a VTC can speed up the process of having your case heard and decided by eliminating travel time and costs. However, there are both pros and cons that must be considered before deciding whether or not you agree to such a hearing. Use this guide to make informed decisions about whether or not to accept a VTC after receiving notice from Social Security.

Why You May Be Offered a Video Hearing in the First Place

You may be offered a VTC after filing for Social Security disability benefits and your claim has been denied. The notice from Social Security that you receive will state that another hearing will be held to review your case, but it will take place via video conference instead of in-person. You have two options; either agree with the proposed terms or request an in-person hearing at the local office instead. So why would someone want to go through with this? There are two main reasons: saving time and saving money.

Stay on Top of Your Benefits: You can call in from the comfort of your home and not worry about getting to a meeting place on time, which is especially helpful if you have a disability that affects your mobility or ability to travel. It also allows for a shorter period between notice of a hearing and actually having it take place.

Convenience:   If you are worried about feeling stressed out from going through multiple hearings with Social Security, then this process may be beneficial for you because VTCs make the whole process more convenient. In addition, most people feel less intimidated during video conferencing than they do when they go into an actual office building and sit across the desk from someone who might judge their claim more harshly than an online review would.

Things to Consider

Lack of Transparency: Video hearings can also be a downside because they lack transparency and take away from the claimant’s ability to build rapport with the ALJ. The claimant has less opportunity to establish their case as non-speculative than he or she would in-person. Thus, video hearings often favor those claimants who have more medical evidence and claims that are easy to document. In other words, people who fit this description may receive faster decisions since the VTCs remove many of the advantages for those with low documentation and difficult to prove disabilities compared to those sitting across from an ALJ at a desk in person.

Expenses:  Another con is that you are responsible for all travel expenses to the nearest Social Security office, whether it is one mile or 75 miles away. This can be an issue because many claimants who are applying for disability do not have the means to pay for car repairs, let alone the cost of gas money to drive three hours each way to a hearing. For this reason, most claimants opt out of VTC hearings since they cannot afford them.

The Bottom Line on Video Hearings for Social Security Hearings

Whether or not the convenience of a video hearing is worth sacrificing your right to an in-person one can be debated either way. While some people may feel more comfortable speaking through a face-to-face meeting, others may prefer the convenience of home without feeling like they are impeding on someone else’s time. If you do choose to go with this option, make sure that you prepare yourself for it as if it were an actual meeting because Social Security Administration expects you to fully understand all paperwork given to you prior to your interview. You might also need these forms your claim is denied.

Returning to In-Person Hearings

In recent years, video and telephone hearings became the standard following the COVID-19 Pandemic with in-person hearings being delayed for the time being.  Recently, it was announced that beginning June 3, 2022, all Administrative Law Judges will be required to resume in-person hearings.  Although video and telephone hearings will remain an option, for those that prefer an in-person hearing will be able to attend beginning in June 2022.

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