This blog article will address some questions that I get when representing Claimant’s at SSDI hearings and can be used to set expectations of family members.
In almost all cases the only person to testify on the Claimant’s behalf is the Claimant. The reasons are fairly simple as to why. First, as a family member and someone that has assisted the Claimant in their quest for benefits you will be assumed to have a vested interest in the Claimant getting their benefits and as such your testimony could be deemed skewed or one sided. As an empathetic family member who probably knew the Claimant prior to the deterioration of their medical condition, there is naturally an emotional aspect of having watched them deteriorate that could potentially overstate what they witness of the Claimant in daily life.
Second, these cases generally will have progressed over a period of a few years and will have medical records covering issues such as physical activity, mental health limitations, etcetera that do an excellent job corroborating the testimony of the Claimant. I like to tell clients that their medical records give the best insight into what a “typical day” is like when they are attending their regularly scheduled appointments. When a patient visits their clinic/hospital for any reason it is common for the medical provider to write in their observations of a person’s mood, gait, pain, alertness, attitude, etc. These notes assist (Administrative Law Judge) or ALJs, in their analyses of what a person is capable of.
Third, the ALJ is most interested in what a Claimant thinks of their own capabilities and struggles. Often when family members actually do testify they have a tendency to state how difficult the Claimant’s situation is on them personally, not the Claimant. The hearing is the Claimant’s time to tell their story in a limited timeframe.
Occasionally there are valid reasons for outside testimony from a family member. When there are traumatic brain injuries or severe memory issues to the point where a Claimant cannot articulate AT ALL what they experience medically on a daily or weekly basis. These situations are extremely rare. Another more common situation is when the Claimant is a child. In these situations, depending on the age of the child the parent/guardian will be expected to complete the picture for the ALJ.
By Robert Tadych