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What if I can't pay to travel to my disability appeal?

Tennesseans who were denied Social Security disability and are appealing the case to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) might have to travel to attend the hearing. For some, this is a financial hardship that might lead to them abandoning filing an appeal for denied Social Security disability. Failing to appeal because of distance or finances is a mistake, because the Social Security Administration (SSA) will pay certain expenses to cover the travel. Even those who can afford it can have their expenses paid.

The SSA will pay some of the costs for those who are traveling more than 75 miles away from their home or office to be at the hearing. The SSA will pay for the costs of the applicant driving to the hearing or for a bus ticket. It will pay if the applicant needs to secure lodging, pay for meals or pay for a taxi. This can be paid for if the ALJ approves these special costs prior to the hearing, except in cases in which the costs were unexpected or unavoidable. The ALJ might allow for payments of the travel of a representative or witnesses.

The applicant is required to provide a request for payment of travel expenses in writing at the time of the hearing or as soon as it can be provided after the hearing. An applicant who requested the location be changed and it is of greater distance from his or her residence will not be repaid for additional travel costs. For those who need money to travel in advance, the ALJ must be informed as soon as possible. The advance payment will only be made if it is shown that the applicant could not attend the hearing without it. When paid in advance, the ALJ must receive an itemized list of the expenses within 20 days of the hearing. If an advance payment was provided and it turns out to be more than what was spent for travel, it must be paid back within 20 days of the applicant being informed how much is owed.

Those appealing a denied claim for Social Security disability benefits should know that they can receive money to travel to their ALJ hearing. Not having the funds to travel or experiencing some other financial hardship is no reason not to continue seeking SSD benefits. Before making a mistake and not moving forward with the appeal, having help from a lawyer who is experienced in all facets of disability claims is key.

Source:, "Your Right to an Administrative Law Judge Hearing and Appeals Council Review of Your Social Security Case -- When we can pay travel expenses, pages 8-9," accessed on Feb. 6, 2017

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