Honestly, it really depends on which state you live in.
In the past, I was a big proponent of face-to-face hearings conducted at the local Social Security disability hearing office. I felt the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) was more personally involved in the hearing process, especially with the claimant in the same room. It was easier to understand the reasons why a person was unable to work. Often, people become very emotional when telling the history of their condition, and that can easily be felt inside a room where everyone is together.
However, wait times have continued to rise and denial rates have risen as well. In fact, in some states, the odds are clearly against a claimant winning his or her case at the hearing level. Further, this often leads the claimant to either have to wait another year to hear about their appeal to the Appeals Council, or face another two years having to file a new application for benefits.
In regards to Texas, the approval rates are 7th to the bottom with just a 38% approval rate. To translate this, it means that there is a 62% chance a claim will be denied! Therefore, the theory that a face-to-face encounter with an ALJ at your hearing (in Dallas, for example) is likely not to improve your chances of winning.
Thus, taking your chances with a video teleconference hearing with an ALJ in another state may just increase a person's chances of winning their disability case.
For my clients in California, you have about a 47% chance of winning your Social Security disability case at the hearing level. While this is much better than Texas, your chances of success are still in the negative. There is still a greater chance you will be denied than if you lived in some other state.
Moral of the story: If you definitely live in Texas, you ought to give serious thought to having your hearing conducted by video teleconference with another ALJ possibly located elsewhere in the United States.
So, what are the states with the best approval rates? Here's a list of the top ten along with their approval rates:
New Mexico 56%
New Jersey 56%
Washington D.C. 53%
North Carolina 52%
If you happen to live in any of these states, then consider yourself lucky, all things considered. After waiting for more than a year, the odds are at least in your favor of being approved. However, just remember there's more to an approval than just having a severe condition. Many other factors are taken into consideration such as your age, your education, and what kind of work you have done in the past 15 years. These approval rates may not reveal just the ALJ's biases, some of these approval rates may be based on cultural factors as well, such as the age of the population in each state, the average educational level, and the skill level of the average citizen in each state.
But one things is for sure, states with very low approval rates, you just may be better off going in front of an ALJ through video teleconference rather than attempting to persuade one face-to-face.
We help claimants throughout Texas and California fighting for their Social Security disability benefits. If you need to chat about your disability claim, please always feel free to call us at: (888) 780-9125.
P.S. These stats came from this website and we want to give it credit: