Last week we wrote a blog post discussing the benefits of bringing your doctor to your disability appeal hearing. The week we plan to talk more about the role of witnesses during the Social Security Disability appeal hearing. Today we will answer the following question that was sent to us on Facebook:
Can I Bring Witnesses to my Disability Hearing?
If your initial application for disability benefits is denied, you will have to appeal the SSA’s decision in order to continue your pursuit of disability benefits. In some states, the appeals process starts with a “Request for Reconsideration”. Unfortunately many applicants are denied at this stage and must proceed to the next level of appeals—the Social Security Disability appeal hearing. Other states skip reconsideration altogether and the appeals process begins with the appeal hearing.
Either way, the disability appeal hearing is often a necessary step toward receiving Social Security Disability benefits. As part of the Social Security Disability appeal hearing, you will be asked to appear before an Administrative Law Judge to answer questions about your claim. Although you are not required to bring witnesses to your disability hearing, it can be extremely beneficial.
Witness accounts can demonstrate the impact that your disability has on your personal life and can help substantiate your claim. This can be particularly helpful if have a disability that makes it difficult for you to speak about the effects of your condition. Witnesses can be friends, family members, caretakers, employers, or medical professionals.
Choose Your Witnesses Carefully
If you decide to bring witnesses to your Social Security Disability appeal hearing it is extremely important that you select reliable individuals who can speak truthfully about the effects of your disability. Below we have compiled a list of helpful hints to keep in mind when selecting witnesses for your disability hearing:
- Choose credible individuals who interact with you on a daily basis who can speak honestly about your condition. Your witnesses will not be present when the Administrative Law Judge questions you and they will not know what you have already said. If your witness exaggerates, lies, or provides inconsistent information, the judge may deny your claim.
- Your witnesses should be able to talk about your specific conditions, what you can and cannot do, what activities you have trouble with, how your work performance has suffered, how your personal life has suffered, and any other relevant information.
- Do not choose more than three witnesses. In this case, it is all about quantity over quality. One or two quality witnesses will be much more beneficial to your claim than five unqualified witnesses.
Once you have selected your witnesses, you should contact the Social Security Administration or hearing office right away to let them know. If you do not inform them ahead of time, your witnesses may not be allowed or your hearing may be delayed. After putting your witnesses on your witness list, it will be your responsibility to prepare them for the hearing. It will also be your responsibility to make sure they know when and where the hearing will be held.
Unfortunately, the Administrative Law Judge can pick and choose which witnesses he sees—if any. For this reason, you should ask your witnesses to also prepare written statements about your day-to-day struggles and limitations. These should be submitted to the Administrative Law Judge in the event that he or she does not meet your witnesses.
Do you have any suggestions about selecting witnesses for your Social Security Disability appeal hearing? Leave these and any questions you have in the comment section below and as always, we might address them in a future blog post.