Can Letters From Family and Friends Help My Disability Case at a Hearing?

While supportive letters from family and friends are usually disregarded by the judge, letters from employers and caregivers can help.

Applicants for Social Security disability often ask friends and family to write letters in support of their disability case. While the administrative law judge (ALJ) who presides over the hearing often disregards these letters, sometimes well-crafted letters can help win your claim.

Letters should be brief. When you ask friends, family, or previous employers to write on your behalf, remember that the quality of the letter prevails over the quantity of pages. Because of the heavy hearing caseload an administrative law judge handles, he or she has little time to sift through long letters in search of relevant information.

Ask those who assist you to write letters. Ask only those people to write on your behalf who have intimate knowledge of your limitations and how they affect your activities of daily living or work-related activities. For example, if you require routine assistance from a family member to perform daily tasks such as grocery shopping, housekeeping chores, lawn care, laundry, or getting to and from doctors’ appointments, a brief letter from that family member that describes what the person does for you, how often he or she has to help you, and why you need assistance will corroborate your own testimony about your limitations. If the ALJ is on the fence about whether or not to approve your claim, this type of letter may help tip the balance in your favor. (In contrast, if a friend writes a letter saying that, when you get together once or twice a month, you seem to be in a lot of pain, the letter is less likely to help.)

Ask former employers to write letters. Consider asking former co-workers or supervisors to write a letter on your behalf if they observed how your disability impacted your ability to do your job. For example, if you required additional time to complete tasks, needed assistance performing your basic job functions, or were terminated because you could no longer do your job, an ALJ would likely take this into consideration when deciding your claim.

Letters shoud be reviewed and notarized. The letter writers should have their letters notarized to help support their authenticity. In addition, if you choose to submit letters of support to the ALJ and you have a disability lawyer, make sure to provide copies to your attorney so that their content can be reviewed before you submit them.