If by "witness letter" you mean a statement on the disability claimant’s behalf, your letter should include what you have witnessed personally in terms of effects of impairments on the claimant. Start with the amount of time you have known the person and your relationship to them. If you have been there to see the decline in their health, you may mention what they used to do versus what they are able to do now. You may do this in terms of hobbies, family participation or work performance. Specifically discuss any physical trouble he/she has such as problems with any of the following: walking, tripping, falling, standing for extended periods, sitting comfortably, lifting, reaching, handling objects. If there are mental claims, you may be able to address memory, forgetfulness, comprehension, problems getting along with people, anxiety attacks, crying spells. These are all only examples of things you may address and this is in no way a complete list. Your friend's attorney may be able to give you more specific recommendations. The bottom line is, the judge has a file full of medical information naming the problems the person has, what they want from you is information on how these diagnosis affect the person from day to day in ways which might affect his/her ability to work. You do not need to explain the diagnosis or tell the judge how much someone needs or deserves disability. This is an opportunity for you to help make your friend a “real person” rather than a paper file in the eyes of the ALJ. I find these statements can be very helpful in my practice and I commend you on your willingness to write a statement for your friend. Thank you!
Here are some additional considerations when crafting a witness statement for a disability proceeding.
RELATIONSHIP TO CLIENT: Name? What is the relation? How long have you known client? How often do you see the client? Last time? Telephone how often? Last Time? Are you familiar with the client’s physical/mental problems? Does/Can the client confide in you about what they had gone/are going through? Do you know why client is hurt/sick? What can you observe about client?
CLIENT’S HISTORY OF CONDITION: What was client like before accident/injury/illness? Physically, behaviorally, mentally, socially? What activities did client enjoy to do before?
DETAILS BEHIND REASONS FOR DISABILITY: What happened? What caused accident/injury/illness?
HOW CLIENT DEALS WITH DISABILITY:
Physical: Has their physical appearance changed (aged quickly, lost/gained weight)? What causes and where is pain coming from? How do you know they are in pain? What do they do all day? Does client have trouble with sleeping?
Mental: How has their mental stability been affected by disability? How is client’s attitude? Are they depressed? What do they do when depressed? Do they cry a lot? Why? Do they have any dramatic mood swings? How is client’s overall memory? Do they have trouble focusing? Is concentration a problem?
Behavioral: Has there been a change in their behavior during the duration of your relationship? When did you start noticing changes in their behavior?
Social: What activities do they enjoy to do now? Does disability affect their relationships with others?
Limitations: Do you know how long can they stand, how long can they sit, how much can they lift, how much can they lift repeatedly? Do they need to rest after? How long to recover after some physical activity? What types of chores/tasks do they do around the house/office? What can/cannot the client do? Do you think they should be working? Why/why not and what makes you say that? Is there a chance they could be able to work in future?
HOW ARE YOU AFFECTED BY CLIENT’S DISABILITY: How are you? How has the client’s disability affected you? Have you had to give anything up? How are you dealing with it? How has your relationship changed over the years? Has anything gotten progressively worse (relationship, client’s condition)?
Information on this site is provided by Brian Scott Wayson as general information, not legal advice, and use of this information does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions about your specific situation, please call an attorney.