Tucson Social Security Disability Blog

Should I Bring A Witness to My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Posted by John Kuhnlein | Jan 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

As clients prepare for their hearings, they often ask whether they should bring witnesses with them.  Often times, clients will tell me that their fathers or wives or children can tell the judge how bad off they are.  While this is a sound idea, it does not work very well in practice.

Just The Facts, Ma'am

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Witnesses? We Don't Need No Stinking Witnesses

In almost every instance, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in a case wants to hear from the claimant and no one else.  This makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, by the time of the hearing, the ALJ will have reviewed all of the claimant's medical records. The ALJ should have a good grasp on the issues in the case.  What an ALJ typically wants to do at a hearing is clarify some specific medical or vocational questions in the case.  Witnesses are generally not going to assist in that pursuit. The second reason why witnesses don't typically add much to the proceedings is more pragmatic: Time. ALJ's are already hopelessly behind in their case loads.  They simply do not have the ability to make each hearing longer than it needs to be. 

What Else Would You Say?

Consider also that most of the witnesses claimants plan to bring to a hearing have some direct connection to them. Most often, they are family members. When this happens, a judge will typically dismiss whatever the family-member witness has to say. They do this in two ways. First, the judge will note that the witness has a strong bias in favor of the claimant. Second, the judge will point out that these witnesses do not have any training to evaluate medical limitations.  This second justification is bit off the mark. Family members who testify are not there to render medical opinions. Nonetheless, the judge is almost certainly going to dismiss the witness testimony on that basis.

Witnesses Can Help In Some Cases

There are cases where witnesses make sense. They are necessary, for example, in case for minors.  Family members can add useful insight in mental health cases, where the claimant is often not able to assess his own limitations. Medical witnesses are always welcome.  If you can get your doctor to attend your hearing, please do. But, this almost never happens. Doctors are simply too busy to attend Social Security disability hearings.  Other doctors are allergic to any legal proceedings and will avoid them at all costs.

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May I Say Something?

If you would feel more comfortable having a family member with you at your hearing, ask him or her to attend. But, don't plan on having that person testify. 

As always, I welcome your question or comments on this or any other topic. 

About the Author

John Kuhnlein

Since 1992, I have been helping the people of Southern Arizona get the benefits they are due. Before devoting all my efforts to assisting people with Social Security disability claims, I also handled such complex lawsuits as medical malpractice and products liability. I brought to my Social Security cases all the skills and attention to detail that I developed in the courtroom. I approach each Social Security disability case as if it were a million-dollar lawsuit. For the people trying to get Social Security benefits, their claim is every bit as important. Because I have personally handled so many Social Security cases, I have refined the skills I need to win your case for you. I have helped people win cases for every kind of ailment from arthritis to valley fever. At present, I am focused on helping those persons with neurological and orthopedic disorders. Because claims for people over age fifty bring additional complications, I particularly seek out those cases to work on. I regularly write about back and spine conditions on my blog. I actively seek out the latest information about orthopedic and neurological disorders to ensure I can represent my clients as effectively as possible. Because of my current focus, I regret that I am not able to take any cases for mental disorders. If you are over age fifty and suffer from any orthopedic or neurological disorder, please contact me at once.

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John Kuhnlein has been assisting people with Social Security disability claims for the past 20 years.

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