As a disability hearing approaches, many clients will tell me that they have friends or family that they want to speak on their behalf at the hearing.
While Social Security’s rules do allow you to call witnesses, this is generally not something that I recommend.
It’s important to remember that at a hearing, the administrative law judge mostly wants to hear from you. They want to hear your story, your symptoms, and what is keeping you from working right now.
This is information that another person, even one who lives with you, just isn’t going to be able to convey.
Calling a witness to testify on your behalf also carries risks. If you tell a judge that you can only stand a few minutes, but then your witness tells a judge you have no problems standing, that can hurt your case quite a bit.
That doesn’t mean that information from third parties has no place in the disability process, of course. One thing that I, and many judges, seem to find helpful is third-party statements. This is a short written statement from a friend or family member who can explain to the judge what they’ve seen, and why they think you cannot work.
And there are certain cases where witnesses are extremely helpful. If a claimant has a poor memory or difficulty with communicating due to their disabilities, then yes, witness testimony is almost a must in those situations.
So, if you are considering having a witness testify at your disability hearing, it’s important to discuss the pros and cons of this before the hearing.