Has your social security disability claim reached the appeal phase? If so, you’ve probably found yourself having to decide whether you’d like to conduct your appeal via video teleconference (VTC) or in person. As of September 2014, claimants must make this decision within 30 days of receiving notice that their appeal has been scheduled. (Previously, you could object to a VTC at any point leading up to the hearing.) While both appeals are conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), there are several advantages to stating your case in person. Now that the window of time to make this critical decision is smaller than ever, it’s in the claimants’ best interest to consider these benefits as early in the process as possible.
If you’re considering taking the VTC option, take the following into account:
• It’s usually easier to demonstrate your credibility when you’re face-to-face. Remember that not all disabilities are readily visible on medical scans or even on your person. If you are arguing for a mental impairment or a physical issue like fibromyalgia that isn’t visually obvious, the strength of your case relies on your ability to convince the judge with words alone. Consider that he or she will not be able to assess the sincerity in your eyes as you answer questions or identify the same nuanced behaviors (wincing in pain as you sit down, limping, etc.) that otherwise might have been recognized in the courtroom.
• If you have to travel more than 75 miles to your in-person hearing, the SSA will reimburse your travel expenses. Don’t let travel expenses become cost-prohibitive if you think that conducting your appeal in-person makes the most sense for your case. The SSA will ask you to complete a mileage reimbursement form, and a check should arrive at your house in several weeks.
• You might have to deal with technical difficulties. If you’ve ever video chatted with someone before, you understand how frustrating even a slight lag in video can be. Audio delays, poor video quality and lapses in coverage are all real possibilities. If a third party, such as your medical provider, needs to conference in to give their testimony, it’s even more likely that you’ll have some issues. If you choose VTC and experience technical difficulties to the extent that you were not allowed a “full and fair” hearing, you can always request that the judge reschedule you for another in-person appeal.
The one disadvantage? Rejecting a VTC hearing will almost always push back your hearing. To minimize your delay, try to reschedule your hearing as early on in the process as possible. It can take anywhere from several weeks to four months to schedule an in-person hearing after the claimant has refused a VTC appeal.
While it may seem that an in-person hearing is preferable most of the time, it’s always best to decide on a case-by-case basis. At Brooks Law Group, we can help you make an informed decision about your social security disability case so that you receive the maximum compensation allowed by law. If anyone you know needs to file for SSDI or has had their social security claim denied, please contact us for help.