Witnesses and the Social Security Disability Benefits Hearing
By: Disability Group (www.socialsecuritylaw.com)
Many clients want to know if they can bring a witness to their Social Security benefits hearing. SSA regulations state that witnesses may appear, although the Administrative Law Judge will make the final decision as to whether or not a witness will be heard. All judges are different, though most will allow witness testimony.
Even if the witness may appear, however, you must also consider whether they should appear. There may be times when a witness’ testimony will actually be harmful to your claim!
Harmful To The Claim
You know your condition better than anyone else. The judge expects you to be able to answer questions as to why you are unable to work, and why you are entitled to Social Security benefits. Testimony from friends and family that simply retell the judge what you already have said might not be very helpful. On the contrary, it could actually hurt your claim.
Witnesses are not allowed to be present during your questioning. If the judge asks both you and your witness the same question, but receives different answers, your credibility can be damaged. It is absolutely important that the judge finds you to be credible in order to grant a favorable decision on your claim.
The best way to ensure credibility is to be honest from the time you file the initial application all the way to the hearing. A witness that doesn’t know enough about your condition, and might give an inaccurate answer to a judge, might mean well but cause great harm.
There are some instances in which calling a witness can be helpful. A judge might want to hear from a witness for a claimant who suffers from conditions that would prevent them from explaining the extent of their disability. For example, claimants who lose consciousness because of their impairments and claimants with mental impairments might need witnesses to best describe their conditions.
In fact, a judge may ask to receive testimony from a close friend or family member present at the hearing – even if you hadn’t intended for them to be a witness! This is generally done when the judge feels that the claimant, for whatever reason, is unable to elaborate well enough on a particular subject.
In the end, the judge will decide whether or not a witness will be allowed. Your Social Security attorney will be able to advise you on the matter in order to provide the best outcome for your claim. Your attorney will also discuss the matter with the judge to ensure that the proper testimony is received.
At Disability Group, all of our attorneys have extensive experience in presenting disability claims in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Therefore, your attorney on the day of the hearing will know when a witness will be helpful to a claim and when it will be harmful. The best strategy is to discuss the issue with your attorney prior to the hearing.