Thursday, January 15, 2015

Disability Hearing Witnesses

The ostensible purpose for an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) holding a hearing is to assess the credibility of the claimant who is seeking Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits. One way to bolster a claimant’s credibility is by developing work history evidence. Another way is by having a witness corroborate the claimant’s testimony. 

The Social Security rules require that evidence be considered from non-medical sources, such as: spouses, parents, caregivers, siblings, other relatives, friends, neighbors, and clergy. When an ALJ fails to discuss hearing testimony from these witnesses in a decision denying SSD benefits, the decision must be reversed. 

I represent a 28 year old corrections officer whose unfavorable ALJ decision was rejected today by the Appeals Council. The order from the Appeals Council noted that the ALJ claimed he gave appropriate weight to the testimony of the claimant’s girlfriend, but in fact, failed to indicate the specific weight accorded it. 

I advise every claimant to bring a witness to testify at their hearing. Besides bolstering the claimant’s testimony, because ALJ’s routinely ignore lay witness testimony, it provides an additional solid ground for appeal.

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