The Social Security Administration listens to testimony from your family, friends, and coworkers about your Virginia and West Virginia disability claim
The Social Security Administration has the task of determining the eligibility of people who file for disability benefits, and it follows the same basic procedure here in Virginia and West Virginia as in all the rest of the country. The first thing that it does is send the claim and the medical records to the Virginia or West Virginia Disability Determination Services. If that agency’s disability examiner denies the claim, then the Social Security Administration provides an appeal process with a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
The basic decisions that must be made are whether you are disabled, and whether your disability prevents you from working. And in some ways those two things are the same because the Social Security Administration bases its definition of disability on your ability to work.
This means that the Social Security Administration needs evidence about your medical condition, and then it needs evidence about how your medical condition affects your ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
Evidence about your medical condition can come primarily from your medical records. However, evidence about how your condition affects your ability to function requires input from a variety of sources, including testimony from people who know you and can see the difference between what you can do now and what you could do before. This means that you want to work with your Virginia disability lawyer to select witnesses from among your family, friends, coworkers, and other people who can best describe how your disability prevents you from being able to work.
Pick witnesses who will help explain your situation
Selecting your witnesses is an important part of preparing your case, and you will want to spend some time with your Virginia disability attorney to make these decisions. You want to find witnesses who can communicate well, and who can explain the difference between what you used to be able to do and what you are able to do now.
The witnesses could be anyone who knows you, and they are not limited to family or coworkers. When you are considering possible witnesses, think of neighbors, relatives, clergy, teachers, therapists, and anyone else who is in a position to have seen how your disability has limited what you can do.
The best witnesses will be able to give their testimony through specific examples. That is, instead of just saying that you are disabled and can’t work, they will be able to provide a story about what you used to be able to do and how you can’t do that same thing anymore. This kind of story demonstrates how your condition has changed and why you are now unable to work.
You also want to consider having a variety of witnesses who can testify about different things. Generally it does not help so much to have a witness basically repeat the same story that another witness told, or even to describe the same general aspect of your disability. Look for witnesses who can talk about different things and who can show different ways in which your disability limits what you can do.
Coworkers can describe how your disability limits your ability to work
Since the Social Security Administration decides whether or not you are disabled according to whether or not you can work (either doing the work that you used to do or adjusting to other work), sometimes your best witness is someone who used to be a coworker.
Just as with other witnesses, the best coworker witness is someone who can use specific examples to show how things have changed.
Here are examples of weak and strong testimony from a coworker:
Weak coworker testimony: Mr. Brown was disabled even while he was working at the plant with me.
Strong coworker testimony: I worked with Mr. Brown for six years. He always did his share of the work until he was hurt. In the last year he was there, I saw him faint twice and took him to the emergency room at the hospital on one occasion. The foreman gave him a lighter job, where he wouldn’t have to lift over five pounds and wouldn’t have to work around moving machinery. All of us pitched in and did part of his work for him. He was absent one or two days a week toward the last. I understand he is retired now on disability.
Get help presenting your Virginia or West Virginia Social Security disability claim
Deciding how to best present your case, and which witnesses to bring to the appeal hearing requires the assistance of a Social Security disability attorney.
If you live in Virginia or West Virginia and are looking for help with your Social Security disability hearing or any other aspect of your claim for benefits, provide a brief description of your claim using the form to your right or contact me at my Winchester Virginia office:
J. David Black
Virginia and West Virginia Social Security disability attorney
Toll free: 1-866-538-0568
115 South Kent Street
Winchester, Virginia 22601-5051