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Social Security Disability, SSI Hearing: Witnesses? Friends and Family

Witnesses Will Help Your Social Security Disability Case When you go before a disability judge, also known as an Administrative Law Judge or ALJ, you will have the opportunity to tell your story about why you are disabled and cannot work. But it’s not just up to you! Of course the experienced disability attorneys at O'Malley Tunstall can help you put on the best case possible and ask all the right questions, but your spouses, friends, family, children, case managers, former employers, and other people who know about your disabling conditions can also testify on your behalf. And it can really help your case! In fact, the disability judge is required by Federal law to listen to your witnesses, and the judge must take their opinions into account when making the decision about your disability. Always continue to treat and follow your doctors advice. Evidence from non-medical sources including “spouses, parents and other caregivers, siblings, other relatives, friends, neighbors, and clergy” is explicitly allowed to “show the severity of your impairment(s) and how it affects your ability to work.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1513(d); see also, 20 C.F.R. § 416.913(d). “Because symptoms, such as pain, are subjective and difficult to quantify, any symptom-related functional limitations …. other persons report, which can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence” must be considered in the ultimate disability conclusion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c). The ALJ may only reject lay testimony regarding functional limitations “by giving specific reasons germane to each witness.” Glover v. Astrue, 835 F.Supp. 1003 (9th Cir. 2011)(quoting, Reginnitter v. Commissioner, 166 F.3d 1294, 1298 (9th Cir. 1999)). The sufficiency of the reasons given “will depend on the thoroughness with which the ALJ conducts and discusses his or her evaluation of the evidence.” Id. “The rejection of the testimony of the claimant’s family members because the claimant’s medical records did not corroborate her fatigue and pain violates SSR 88-13, which directs the ALJ to consider the testimony of lay witnesses where the claimant’s alleged symptoms are unsupported by her medical records.” Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1289 (9th Cir. 1996). What this law means is that your disability judge must consider testimony from your lay witnesses. If the witnesses’ testimony is consistent with the medical evidence, the disability judge can only reject the testimony if he has good, specific, germane reasons that he explains thoroughly. If you have questions about lay witness testimony in your disability case or have any other questions about disability, call or email our firm. One of our disability lawyers Susan O’Malley, Joseph Tunstall, or Amos Waranch will be in contact with you shortly.

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