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I like to get a statement from a spouse for Social Security disability claims. I think a non-medical, or "lay," statement is helpful to the claim. These statements are often quite powerful, because they describe the loss that has accompanied the inability to work, and often describe the struggles the household has undergone as a result of the claimant's disability. The statements provide good evidence in support of a claim for disability benefits.

Further, the statement is already in the claim file before the ALJ first reviews the claim, so the judge can get a good idea of a claim in advance of the hearing.

Statements are not limited to spouses, however. Anyone with knowledge of the disability applicant's situation can write a statement, and these statements must be considered by the judge. See 20 CFR 404.1513(d)(4).

I had a meeting last week, in preparation for an upcoming hearing, with a client who obtained four statements in support of her claim: her husband, her mother, her best friend, and a previous employer who is also a friend. The four statements together paint a clear picture of the client's limitations. They add quite a bit to the overall case. Each statement describes similar problems that the client is having, but describe the client's limitations in different ways. Each statement is very genuine, and together they offer persuasive evidence of disability.

Two thoughts on presentation of the statements:

  1. Sometimes handwritten statements are very hard to read. In such cases, my legal assistant types the statement, and we submit the typed version together with the original handwritten one. You want the judge to be able to read the statement, so type it if necessary.
  2. A speaker at a recent conference suggested that statements should be submitted in the form of an affidavit: typed, sworn and notarized. The speaker's thinking was that, if you end up in federal court, the affidavit format is familiar, and the statement would carry more weight. In my view, it is the authenticity and genuineness of the statements that make them such good evidence. An affidavit is a lawyer-produced document, and seems less persuasive to me. I think the statement in its original form is more effective at the hearing level.

Regardless of the format, get statements in support of your claim!

Update: Please also read Statement from a former employer can enhance credibility


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