If you have appealed your disability claim and your request for reconsideration was also denied, a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is the next step. The ALJ will generally hold the hearing within 75 miles from your home.
However, this can be a problem for disability applicants who do not live nearby, have no transportation, or are currently hospitalized. So what can be done if you cannot appear or afford to travel to your hearing? Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides several different options in these cases.
For help obtaining disability benefits, do not hesitate to contact our firm to schedule a free initial legal consultation today. We are available anytime, day or night, to take your call or chat online.
Attend a Telephone or Video Hearing
If attending an in-person disability hearing is not possible, you may request to attend a telephone or video hearing. There are certain advantages and disadvantages to both of these options.
A telephone hearing is done from your home and over the phone. These hearings can be scheduled a lot faster, rather than waiting months, but you will not be evaluated in the same manner for an in-person hearing. The ALJ will only be able to hear your testimony in a telephone conference without being able to physically see how you respond to questions being asked and how your condition has impacted you.
A video hearing is conducted at a specified location while the ALJ appears remotely by video. You will be able to view, listen and speak to the ALJ about your condition. This may be a good option if you live too far from a Social Security hearings office and you cannot travel great distances.
However, it is not unusual for video conferences to be delayed or disrupted by a number of technical issues, which could jeopardize your right to a fair hearing.
It is important to note that a telephone or video hearing may not always be feasible and not every ALJ will grant them, depending on your situation. You have the ability to postpone or reschedule a hearing. There is no substitute for attending a hearing in person and allowing the ALJ to assess your credibility.
Request an On The Record (OTR) Decision
Another option if you cannot attend your disability hearing is to request that the ALJ make an On the Record (OTR) decision. Attending an in-person hearing is generally better than an OTR decision. However, if that is not possible, you must let the SSA know in writing the reason you are unable to attend the hearing and ask the ALJ to make a decision based on your claim and the medical records provided.
Requesting an OTR decision is often used in cases when an applicant's condition has significantly worsened since initially filing for disability benefits and this can be supported by medical evidence.
Payment and Reimbursement of Travel Expenses
If you need to travel more than 75 miles from your home to attend a hearing in person, the SSA may be able to help pay for travel expenses or reimburse you for these expenses.
These expenses must be reasonable and necessary and could include transportation costs related to purchasing a bus ticket or gas for your car. In certain cases, money for food, lodging or taxi services may be covered if you have to stay overnight. The ALJ must approve these costs before the hearing date.
You must give advanced notice to the ALJ prior to the hearing if you require financial assistance in order to attend. If you receive an advanced payment, an itemized list of your travel costs and receipts will need to be given to the ALJ within 20 days after the hearing. You will also be required to pay back any amount you were given over the amount you spent.
Otherwise, a request for reimbursement must be made in writing at the time of the hearing. Be sure that you have itemized your expenses and have supporting receipts.
Other Costs That May Be Covered to Attend Hearing
Depending on your situation, the ALJ may approve payment of similar travel expenses for your representative and any witnesses he or she decides are needed at your hearing.
The ALJ may even want you to complete more medical exams or tests for a disability determination. If this is the case, these expenses could be covered and scheduled for you.
Reach Out to Our Lawyers at Dayes Law Firm
If anything happens that prevents you from attending your disability hearing, we recommend reaching out to one of our dedicated Phoenix Social Security Disability lawyers as soon as possible. We have attended many disability hearings and are prepared to guide you through the appeals process to help you obtain the benefits you need. You do not want to have your claim dismissed under any circumstances.
Our consultations are 100 percent free without any obligation to hire our firm. We also operate on a contingency fee basis, so there are no upfront costs. You only pay us if we help get your claim approved.
Dayes Law Firm. A Firm You Can Trust. Ph: 1-800-503-2000.