Social Security Disability (SSD) hearings give applicants the option to choose from three different formats: in-person, telephone, or video. Historically, SSD hearings were conducted in-person. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SSD started offering telephone hearings and continues to encourage remote options. Learn about the different formats and which format is right for you.
In-person hearings are held at a Social Security Administration (SSA) office, giving you the opportunity to meet the administrative law judge (Judge) who will decide your case. This format allows you to present your case in a more personal manner, to present physical evidence, and to answer questions in-person.
In-person hearings may be intimidating to some, and not always accessible for applicants with mobility issues. You should also be mindful of scheduling delays and conflicts, and transportation issues that may make in-person hearings more difficult to attend.
Phone hearings allow you to speak to the presiding Judge over the phone. This format is accessible from the comfort of your home, and you are likely to receive a telephone hearing date much quicker than an in-person hearing.
Phone hearings can make it more difficult to present physical evidence. It is also important to consider the small risk of technical difficulties and have a contingency plan in case of disruptions.
Video hearings provide similar benefits to an in-person hearing, including interacting with the Judge in real-time, while eliminating the need to travel. They are also likely to be scheduled earlier than in-person hearing. This format is helpful for applicants concerned about mobility or transportation restraints.
Video hearings may present technical difficulties. If your internet connection is unstable, you may have to conduct the hearing from a different location or opt for a telephone or in-person hearing.
Choose the Right Option for You
In making your decision, it is helpful to consider:
- Which format do you feel most comfortable with and if time is a factor in your decision – is it more important to be in the court room with a Judge or receive a quicker hearing date?
- Whether you have the necessary technical equipment and a good internet connection.
- Whether you can travel and attend an in-person hearing.
- How complex is your case? An in-person or video hearing is useful when you want to present physical evidence and have a more personal interaction with the Judge.
- Note that disability attorneys may prefer in-person hearings over remote hearings because they have experience for appearing in front of a Judge, and it is helpful for them to be in the same room as their client.
Regardless of which format you choose, it is important to stay connected with your local hearing office while your case is pending.
If you are unsure of which format is right for you, speak with an experienced disability attorney who can guide you through your hearing options and help prepare your case.