Social Security Disability Hearings and Lay Testimony
In my Social Security Disability and SSI claims, the question often comes up whether it is a good idea to have witnesses other than the claimant testify at the hearing. This is also known as “lay testimony.” Most ALJs frown on bringing a load of lay witnesses if the testimony will be duplicative. However, sometimes it is necessary due to the condition or personality of the claimant. In childhood cases, you always will have at least one parent or caregiver testify. In cases of severe mental impairment, a spouse or parent is often a very objective and helpful witness. Sometimes you might have a claimant that just is not willing due to pride or stubbornness to admit his or her true limitations and again lay witnesses should fill the role of the testimony described above to provide evidence of functional limitations.
More than not, I suggest getting “Letters of Recommendation” from those willing and able to provide information regarding the claimant’s impairment. “Letters of Recommendation” are notes or letters from former employers, supervisors, co-workers, etc. describing the claimant’s impairments, former ability to work, current inability to work, etc.
If the claimant left his employment on good terms, request a supporting letter from a manager, supervisor, or someone with the former employer. At a minimum, try to get a job description and order the personnel file. A personnel file showing a hardworking, long-term employee goes a long way in proving the credibility of the claimant. Again, the key is to make sure that any lay testimony dovetails with what is in the medical records or vocational evidence. A discussion about the importance of treatment source opinions can be found here.
If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI, personal injury, EEOICPA, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Morristown, Maryville, Rogersville, Dandridge, Tazewell, New Tazewell, Jefferson City, Strawberry Plains, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Loudon, Kingston, Halls, Maynardville, Crossville, Cookeville, Jamestown, Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, LaFollette, Lake City, Jacksboro, Bean Station, Cosby, Newport, White Pine, Mosheim, Wartburg, Sunbright, Pigeon Forge, Greeneville, Harriman, Dayton, Spring City, and Deer Lodge.