Should I Agree to a Video Hearing for My Disability Hearing?

Each method of hearing has its benefits, but in-person hearings offer unique advantages.

By , J.D. · University of Missouri School of Law
Updated by Diana Chaikin, Attorney · Seattle University School of Law

The Social Security Administration (SSA) can conduct disability hearings in one of three ways: in person, over the phone, or by video teleconference (VTC). Most hearings have historically been conducted in person, with remote methods being used as an option almost only when the disability applicant ("claimant") has trouble getting to the hearing location.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SSA has expanded the use of "virtual" hearings to increase efficiency and ease claimants' travel burdens. Many of the hearings are conducted out of a National Hearing Center (NHC), an all-virtual office. And locally, many administrative law judges (ALJs) are still holding telephone hearings. But if you don't feel comfortable with a phone or video teleconference, you have the right to request an in-person hearing.

Should I Agree to a VTC or Phone Hearing?

Each method of hearing has its strengths and weaknesses. If you have a representative helping you with your disability claim, you should discuss whether it makes sense for you to have a VTC, phone, or in-person hearing. Take into consideration several of the factors below before you make your decision.

Video Hearings

If your hearing notice says that you were scheduled for a video teleconference hearing, you'll need to have access to a computer or smartphone that allows you to run a secure program called Microsoft Teams. Your VTC notice will contain instructions on how to set up the program and log in on the date and time of your hearing.

Pros of VTC Hearings

  • You can see the administrative law judge (ALJ) from the comfort of your home.
  • You don't have to worry about physically getting to the hearing office, but you still have the benefit of being able to see the ALJ who will decide your case.
  • The ALJ can see you. Having a face to put to a name can help the judge evaluate your credibility, even subconsciously, and humanize your disability application.

Cons of VTC Hearings

  • Technical difficulties can arise and delay your case. While the SSA has gotten better at preventing glitches over the past two years, having additional factors at play with VTC technology means that more things have the potential to go wrong.
  • The ALJ can't see enough of you. If you have trouble moving around or have a physical deformity, these issues won't always come through on a small screen.

Phone Hearings

If your hearing notice says you were scheduled for a phone hearing, the SSA will call you on the number you provided at the time and date of your hearing. A hearing monitor will add you to a conference call and announce your presence to the ALJ, who will identify themselves as well as any additional witnesses on the line.

Pros of Phone Hearings

  • You can be in any physical location as long as you have a phone connection. You don't have to worry about going to a library or a friend's house to use their computer or access the internet.
  • You can be in any physical position you'd like. Claimants who have great difficulty getting dressed or sitting upright can testify while lying down or reclining without worrying about how they'll appear to the ALJ.

Cons of Phone Hearings

  • The ALJ can't see you and you can't see the ALJ. Neither you nor the judge will have the opportunity to take cues from body language and facial expressions.
  • Overlapping conversations can make testimony difficult. Because several people will be on the conference call with you, it can be hard to tell who is speaking when. Long pauses and interruptions can interfere with the flow of your testimony.

In-Person Hearings

If your hearing notice doesn't mention that the hearing will be conducted by phone or VTC, your hearing will be held in person. You'll need to be physically present at the location provided on the date and scheduled time.

Pros of In-Person Hearings

  • The ALJ will be able to see you in action. Your behavior will be easier to convey to the judge when you're both in the same room, rather than behind a screen or phone line.
  • You will have less chance of miscommunication. Having a hearing conducted at a fully staffed Social Security office increases the odds that you'll be able to fix any problems that might come up.

Cons of In-Person Hearings

  • Getting to the hearing location can be difficult. The logistics of getting to the physical office, such as accounting for traffic and remembering what to bring, can be tough for many claimants.
  • Being at the hearing location can increase nervousness. While most claimants are nervous about their hearing no matter how it's conducted, the idea of facing a disability judge in person can increase normal feelings of anxiety.

Which Type of Hearing Should I Opt For?

Many disability attorneys prefer in-person hearings over telephone or VTC methods. In their eyes, the pros of having a hearing where they're in the same room with their client and the ALJ outweigh the cons. But before you opt for an in-person hearing, make sure that you're comfortable with a potential wait of several months while the SSA reschedules your claim.

No one-size-fits-all method works for every claimant, and if you have a strong preference for one method over the other, let your representative know. Your attorney might agree with you. If you have a well-supported opinion from your regular doctor stating that you have severe work-related limitations, you could benefit from the convenience of a video hearing.

If you have a VTC hearing scheduled and you don't have a representative, you may want to contact an experienced disability attorney for advice.

Updated September 21, 2022

Talk to a Disability Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Boost Your Chance of Being Approved

Get the Compensation You Deserve

Our experts have helped thousands like you get cash benefits.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you