You have a legal right to appear in person to present your case for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits directly to the administrative law judge (ALJ). Most claimants wisely choose to get an attorney to represent them if they've reached this level of appeal -- so, is it better to just let your attorney handle the whole thing and skip the hearing? After all, there's plenty of evidence in your file that supports your claim.
Definitely not. The hearing in front of the ALJ is probably the most important event in your case -- and your presence could be the one major deciding factor that leads to approval.
Hearings are often difficult for disabled people to attend because they are only held in specific locations. That means traveling to the location for the hearing date, which can be difficult both physically and financially for someone with a disability. Plus, hearings can be emotionally stressful -- which is also hard for some people to handle, especially if they're suffering from a mental disability. However, the only way you want to waive your right to be there is if you absolutely cannot physically make it to the hearing because of your condition.
Hearings are so important to the SSD appeals process that you actually have to waive your right to a personal appearance in front of the ALJ in writing -- and, even then, you can change your mind until the ALJ's decision is actually mailed out.
Why is it so important for disability applicants to physically be present at their hearing? Your presence gives the ALJ the chance to:
- Ask you questions about your daily life that may not be accurately reflected in the record
- Ask you, in your own words, why you can't work
- Actually observe your physical or mental issues in person, which can be much different than simply reading about them on a page
- See how you function in an unfamiliar setting -- which is often reflective of your ability to adjust to your environment in the first place.
Your SSD hearing is important -- so don't miss this opportunity to plead your case directly with the person who has the direct power to grant your claim!