By Tai Prohaska
Despite rumors to the contrary, most people who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are denied. Sometimes they are denied because they don’t have enough work credits because they didn’t pay into the system long enough to be eligible. Most people who are denied then abandon the process. Applicants can appeal the Social Security Administration’s decision, but 88 percent of these appeals are also denied.
Applicants can file a second appeal, often called the hearing level, because it involves a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
At this point, individuals have the option to appear before an ALJ at a formal in-person hearing, or to participate in a video teleconference (VTC) with a judge. VTCs appeal to many claimants because they usually call for a shorter commute and they believe it may be less stressful.
But is that always the right choice?
Is it better to face your decision-maker eye to eye rather than face a TV screen, often of suspect quality? Could the non-verbal communication clues that television screens tend to hide, help or hurt your ability to tell your story? Many nonverbal communication clues that could offer the ALJ a more complete picture of you and the basis of your SSDI claim include tremors, perspiration, nervous legs below the table, signs of intense pain and facial flushing.
An ALJ could miss these indicators at a VTC hearing, and that could negatively influence your credibility and jeopardize the outcome of your claim.
On the other hand, if it’s difficult for you to attend an in-person hearing, which may take place hundreds of miles away, you may be better off taking advantage of VTC technology. If it’s impractical or unsafe to travel to a hearing, a VTC may be your best option.
Remember, it’s always your decision whether to appear at an in-person ALJ hearing or to participate in a video teleconference.
Although most people file the initial SSDI application on their own, most applicants have a representative at the appeal level. Discuss the pros and cons of a VTC with your representative.
If you are thinking about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance and would like to improve your chances of being approved at the initial level and avoid the appeal process altogether, click here to get started with an online SSDI eligibility assessment.