Great news! It took months after you submitted your disability application to have your hearing scheduled, and the date is finally approaching. Is it possible that after all that time, you’re hearing might be postponed?
Unfortunately, yes. But it may be because of circumstances outside your control, and you might be the one who ultimately needs the hearing rescheduled. Fortunately, there are ways you can handle the situation so that postponement is not held against you, and the receipt of your benefits may not be delayed substantially.
The current national wait time from application to hearing remains approximately 1.5 years. With an ongoing backlog, the Social Security Administration has no interest in delaying the process further. But there are some instances when rescheduling is unavoidable, and the most common reason for postponement is bad weather—it simply may not be possible for the relevant parties to travel.
Additionally, and this is more commonly a problem for disability hearings that are held via video teleconference, technical difficulties may prove too difficult to overcome in the moment, and the only thing that can be done is to reschedule the hearing.
If a hearing has to be rescheduled for reasons that are outside of your control, it will not be held against you. SSA will also make every effort to hold the rescheduled hearing sooner rather than later. The administrative law judge (ALJ) will usually ask you to sign a waiver so that Social Security is not required to give you the standard 75-day notice period before the hearing can be scheduled.
Occasionally, a delayed hearing can be rushed a couple of weeks if the judge is available and finds an opening in his or her docket. More likely than not, however, it will usually take between 1-2 months for the rescheduled hearing to take place.
What if you’re the one who needs to reschedule the hearing? If you do not have a good reason for doing so, Social Security could decide to deny you benefits, regardless of whether you meet the federal definition of disability. If you provide a good reason, Social Security will usually grant your request.
Social Security considers the following to be acceptable reasons to postpone a hearing: hospitalization; a death in the family; problems with traffic; severe illness; or failed transportation. Additionally, if you are suffering from a severe physical or mental impairment that makes it impossible for you or your representative to be present at the hearing at the set date and time, that will almost always be adequate justification to reschedule your hearing.
Also, Social Security will usually grant your request to postpone when it comes to issues of representation. If you do not have an attorney representing you when the hearing was originally scheduled, but you found one in the meantime, Social Security will usually grant an extension so that your representative can get familiar with the case.
No matter what the circumstances, be sure to let your local Office of Hearing Operations (OHO) know as soon as possible that you’ll need to reschedule your hearing. Social Security will appreciate your honesty and is likely to be more accommodating.