Will your friends, family members or other witnesses testify at your disability hearing?

A large part of our work as Roanoke disability attorneys consists of preparing our clients and their witnesses to testify at the hearing before the administrative law judge. While the claimant’s testimony generally is the most important evidence presented at the hearing, in many cases, testimony from lay witnesses –that is, non-expert witnesses – can be quite compelling. Lay witnesses who may be able to provide testimony in support of your claim include your spouse or other family members; your friends and neighbors; and your former co-workers or supervisor. Depending on the facts of your case, these individuals may be able to testify on one or more of the following topics:

(1) Your pain

Social Security recognizes that the people closest to you (i.e., your spouse, immediate family, closest friends) can be a reliable source of evidence regarding the disabling impact of your pain. These individuals can testify as to their observations of how you live your life with pain, including: the triggers and aggravating factors of your pain; your treatment program; the side-effects of your treatment and medications; the effectiveness of your treatment and medications; your limitations; and your efforts to return to work. This is particularly true in cases involving Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (RSD/CRPS). Social Security has specifically acknowledged the value of lay witness testimony regarding the impact of this condition on a claimant’s ability to function.

(2) The impact of a mental impairment

Lay witness testimony can be persuasive evidence of the disabling impact of a mental impairment. For example, a former co-worker might offer testimony that reveals your diminished ability to work (e.g., your inability to concentrate, work at a consistent pace, tolerate stress), and your struggle to manage your daily activities and deal with common social situations.

(3) Your ability to work

Simply put, if you are able to work, then you are not “disabled,” for purposes of Social Security disability benefits. Social Security evaluates your ability to work in terms of your “residual functional capacity” or “RFC.” Your RFC is your ability to perform basic work-related functions (e.g., to sit, stand, and walk; to lift and carry objects; etc.), in spite of the limitations caused by your impairment. Social Security rules and regulations provide that the decision-maker must take into account lay witness observations of your impairment-related limitations when determining your RFC.

If you are looking for more information about how to prepare for your disability hearing, I would highly recommend visiting the website of Fred Daley, a Chicago disability attorney.

Contact our Roanoke disability attorneys

If you would like to speak with an experienced Roanoke disability attorney about your pending hearing, please contact us. We will make sure that you and your witnesses know what to expect at the hearing and are prepared to testify.