When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, it is always recommended that you include letters from third parties to support the your disability claim. When it comes to witnesses, you are not limited to medical sources alone: those who know you in a personal and/or professional capacity can also provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) with their observations on how your disability has negatively affected your ability to work.
This input is especially valuable if your claim is not accompanied by a lot of medical records.
Your Treating Physician and Your Social Security Claim
A detailed letter from your treating physician, also known as a ‘medical source statement’, can play a pivotal role in the success of your disability application. For maximum efficacy the letter must be objective and describe both your current functional capacity and any limitations created by your disability. Much of this information is included in the residual functional capacity (RFC) form that your doctor fills out, but an accompanying letter can carry additional weight.
Former Employers and Supervisors
Former employers, supervisors, and even coworkers can write letters documenting their observations of how your disability affected your capacity to do your job. If they confirm that you needed help performing basic job functions or had to be terminated because you could no longer do them at all, the SSA would likely take their input into consideration when reviewing your application.
Caregivers' Help With Your Claim
Friends, relatives, and professional caregivers interact with you on a regular basis, making their insights into your limitations carry weight. Ask them to write letters about how your disability has impacted your ability to work, and even take care of yourself. For example, if you routinely require assistance from a family member to keep your house clean, do your grocery shopping, or even perform basic personal hygiene, that person’s letter could swing the final decision in your favor.
Once these people have confirmed that they will write a letter for you, ask them to have the completed letters notarized for added authenticity. You should keep copies for yourself and your Social Security disability attorney, if you have one. It is also a good idea to have your attorney review the content so that all of the information supports your claim and does not inadvertently harm your case.
When you ask previous employers, friends, family and caregivers to write on your behalf, bear in mind that the quality of the letter content is preferable to the number of pages. SSA administrators typically have a heavy caseload and may simply skim a longer document without taking time to absorb the significance of the contents. Ask them to keep their letters meaningful but brief.
If your disability claim is denied the first time (as is the case with the majority of applicants) and you opt to appeal, these letters will be valuable when you present your case to an administrative law judge. Concise yet detailed insights from those who have observed the impact of your disability upon your life could ultimately mean the difference between a successful appeal and a denial.