What Should I Wear to my Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing?

Submitted by Shane on

Today we will be sticking with our recent theme-- Social Security Disability appeal hearings. Today's question is: How should I dress for my disability appeal hearing? Although this may not be a claimant’s first concern, it is definitely something that should be considered carefully. In this blog post we will talk about the importance of your appearance at a disability hearing and will provide you with some helpful hints to dress for success.

How should I dress at my disability appeal hearing?

Choosing how to dress for your Social Security Disability appeal hearing may seem like a minor decision, especially when compared to the stress you may be feeling about the entire application process. However, deciding what to wear is an important consideration. When handled improperly, your appearance may negatively impact your disability claim.

The disability appeal hearing is a vital part of the disability benefit appeals processes. The hearing provides claimants with a chance to appear before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to answer questions about their claim. Your hearing is a legal proceeding in which you appear before a judge. Like any other hearing, your judge will expect you to dress in a way that shows a certain level of respect for the proceedings.

At the same time, however, the purpose of your hearing is to persuade the judge that you have a disability severe enough to prevent you from working. Because of this, overdressing can work against you. When selecting an outfit, choose something that might be considered business casual. Your outfit should be plain and conservative but not too fancy.

It is also important that you don’t try to exaggerate your disability in any way. For example, if you don’t require a wheelchair on a typical day, do not use one at your hearing. An Administrative Law Judges handles disability hearings each and every day. He or she will be able to tell if you are exaggerating or playing up your disability. This will ultimately hurt your chances of success. Only use assistive devices, braces, or medical equipment that you truly need.

Below we have compiled a list of helpful suggestions that you should take into account when dressing for your appeal hearing:

  • Make sure your clothes are clean and presentable. Try to select items that don’t have obvious stains or holes.
  • Select items that fit conservatively. Overly revealing clothing will distract from your claim and may give the judge the impression that you aren’t taking your hearing seriously.
  • Choose something you feel comfortable in. If you are uncomfortable in your clothing you will be focused on your discomfort rather than answering the judge’s questions.
  • Do not overdress. Wearing a suit or formal dress may give off the impression that you are healthier or better off than you truly are.
  • Avoid wearing heavy makeup, jewelry, or nail polish. Do your best to wear clothing that conceals any tattoos you may have.
  • Your clothing should not be distracting in any way. The focus should be on your need for assistance—not your outfit.
  • Don’t go out of your way to hide or exaggerate your disability. Provide an accurate representation of yourself.

What tips do you have about dressing for an appeal hearing? Leave your questions and comments below!

Additional Resources

Blog comments

Anonymous (not verified)

Is it okay to wear nice

Is it okay to wear nice bluejeans?

Fri, 02/19/2016 - 18:44 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
I would say to try to wear a dressier pair of pants if you have them. If however, you're wearing nice blue jeans with a button up shirt, tie, and suit jacket, then you should be ok.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:07 Permalink
Granda (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Will a nivel Scirt, and

Will a nivel Scirt, and blouers do good?
Or dress pants, or do I dress like
Going to Church.?

Mon, 09/26/2016 - 18:01 Permalink

In reply to by Granda (not verified)

Hi Granda,

Hi Granda,
Generally, it may be a good idea to dress in formal attire for your hearing.

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 16:42 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Is it okay to wear blue Jean&

Is it okay to wear blue Jean's and nice top, or a jogging suit if it is windy and cold or wintery weather.

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 08:10 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi There,

Hi There,

I would recommend wearing the nicest clothes you have, a shirt and tie if you have one. It's always better to over dress for something like this. Best of luck!

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 15:27 Permalink
Pam (not verified)

Is it on for a female to wear

Is it on for a female to wear jeand

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 07:42 Permalink

In reply to by Pam (not verified)

Hi Pam,

Hi Pam,
It may be a good idea to wear something a bit more on the dress side, but jeans are not in and of themselves bad to wear as long as your outfit looks good.

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 12:03 Permalink
Jim (not verified)

My attorney has advised that

My attorney has advised that I dress the way I would dress on am average day. Since I'm basically a "if its not too dirty, wear it" kind of guy, I'm going a step up from that with black jeans, casual boots, and a plaid, (subdued color) button down flannel.

Tue, 01/10/2017 - 02:04 Permalink
Elizabeth Rizzo (not verified)

For my hearing the judge went

For my hearing the judge went by what I was wearing and said that I am capable of going to work, even though I have bipolar disorder. So in this case it worked against me. I wore business casual, and she said it was too much.

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 09:16 Permalink
Cheryl McGill (not verified)

Absolutely best practices to

Absolutely best practices to ensure your comfort! Plan your outfit days ahead.

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 13:17 Permalink
Pam (not verified)

I know how this sounds but

I know how this sounds but please bear with me. I am a VERY attractive and young looking women for my age of nearly 53. I am often guessed around 40. I am not overweight, I'm tall, long blonde hair and wear makeup... Think Pamela Anderson minus the giant tatas. I broke my back in 3 places and my spine is held together with 2 long rods and 22 screws. You cannot SEE my disabling pain but you can imagine. I'm afraid my younger, attractive, healthy appearance will hurt my case. Should I wear my hair in a bun or is that obvious I'm playing down my looks. Should I not wear makeup? I normally wear a lot. I look like the healthiest woman my age you've ever met but I have osteoporosis that caused my spinal fractures and I suffer debilitating pain doing every day things. How do I get the judge to see past what will be his/her first impression of me?

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 13:36 Permalink

In reply to by Pam (not verified)

Hi Pam,

Hi Pam,

I would recommend just wearing something business casual. Remember you are meeting with a judge. Wear what makes you feel comfortable, but make sure it is professional looking as well.


Tue, 06/27/2017 - 14:53 Permalink
Carrie (not verified)

Hi, may seem obvious but

Hi, may seem obvious but should I dye my blue hair back to brown? I'm on the fence with it.

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 15:50 Permalink
Jhoanna (not verified)


I have my disability hearing 2/14/18 I'm 31 years old I have sjogrens syndrome, neuropathy, inflammatory arthritis, lupus and osteoarthritis of the lower spine. My usual now days is that I'm in PJs day in and day out occasionally I wear jeans and a t-shirt I don't have the energy to really pick out clothes I just grab whatever I see first if I have to go out, I don't wear makeup and my hair is falling out like crazy and I don't mess with it I just put it up halftime without brushing it I k ow sounds horrible, what should I try to do different? My lips are always dry dry dry so is my skin so I use lots of lotions and chap lip balm should I use it when I go to court or should I just leave it natural? Would a t-shirt and jeans work? I usually wear sendals only if I have to go somewhere I use tennis shoes would that be appropriate? Thank you sorry for long comment but I been waiting for 2 years.

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 23:30 Permalink
Tommy Scott (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

I am 45 year old black Male..

I am 45 year old black Male.... Should I cut my locs in my hair? My parents seem to think they may of been working against me so far..... I am also dark and applying in Tennessee....

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 20:06 Permalink

In reply to by Tommy Scott (not verified)

Hi Tommy,

Hi Tommy,

Your haircut won't play into the decision. I would just recommend wearing business casual clothes to your hearing.

Fri, 04/19/2019 - 11:44 Permalink
Sharon (not verified)

Is it okay to wear flat

Is it okay to wear flat sandals nice sandals wish my khaki or black pants

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 12:44 Permalink

In reply to by Sharon (not verified)

Hi Sharon,

Hi Sharon,

They key is to look presentable, but not distracting. If you think that you will be able to give off the impression that you are taking the process seriously, then you should not have a problem wearing sandals.

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 11:59 Permalink

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