Should You Bring a Witness to Your Disability Hearing?
Social Security Disability applicants may choose to bring witnesses to administrative law judge hearings to help support benefit claims. If the Social Security Administration denies people’s applications for disability benefits, they may choose to appeal the decision. The four steps of appeal for Social Security claims include reconsideration, administrative law judge hearing, appeals court action and federal court action.
Supporting Disability Appeals with Witness Accounts
Claimants may bring witnesses, such as family members, caretakers, friends, employers, coworkers or medical professionals, to administrative law judge hearings to provide testimony on their behalf. Benefit applicants may request hearings before administrative law judges when they disagree with the decisions that come from the reconsideration request reviews.
At these hearings, judges independent from the original decisions and reconsideration reviews reexamine the supporting evidence, as well as question applicants and hear testimony from any witnesses. Witnesses may answer questions and give details that help demonstrate the impact claimants’ conditions have had on their lives.
Choosing the Right Witness
When benefit applicants choose to bring witnesses to disability benefit appeal hearings, they must select who to call on with care. The judge may consider all of the evidence, not just that which supports an applicant’s claim. Therefore, those seeking appeals of SSD claim denials may benefit from choosing witnesses who can speak honestly and credibly about their conditions.
The best witnesses for supporting disability claim denials include those who can talk about claimants’ specific conditions. Witnesses should have the ability to express the tasks and activities that benefit applicants’ struggle to perform and the toll applicants’ conditions have had on their personal and work lives. In providing their testimony, witnesses should refrain from giving misinformation or exaggerating. Doing so may provide grounds for administrative law judges to deny applicants’ claims.
Notifying the Hearing Office
Disability claimants who choose to bring witnesses to testify must notify the hearing office or Social Security before the hearing date. If they do not, the administrative law judge may not hear the testimony, or it may result in having the hearings pushed back.
At the hearing, the administrative law judge may choose which witnesses to let testify, if any. When witnesses prepare written statements ahead of time, it may help them focus thoughts and provide evidence to submit for review should they not get the chance to speak.