This letter should discuss what you know personally. The judge has a file full of documents which address all the things your friend/employee/loved one has gone through medically, what they need is an explanation of how these things affect his/her daily life. Start with a brief explanation of your relationship to the claimant and how long you have known them. If you have witnessed the decline of their health, discuss what they used to be able to do or used to enjoy in terms of hobbies, family life or work and how those things have changed. Use the lists below as a guide when you write your letter to the judge. You do not need to answer each question. Your letter should only address limitations you have seen personally. You may have other things you want to include in your letter as well.
What Not to Cover
Again, the judge has a file full of diagnostic records and medical history. You do not need to recount procedures or hospital stays. In addition, you do not need to tell the judge how badly an individual needs money or how much they deserve to be approved. These are things that may prove to be distracting.
Employer statements can be very helpful in a disability case for a number of reasons. Much of a case comes down to the credibility of the claimant and any assistance the claimant has in establishing his/her credibility is a boost. An employer can single handedly show that a person is trustworthy, dependable and hard working. Specifically, you may want to speak to some or all of the following points:
o Effort made in the job
o Work ethic while employed
o Length of employment
o Honesty and Trustworthiness
o Worked even when sick
o Changes in performance with onset of symptoms
o Missed time, days off, incomplete days after onset and with worsening of symptoms
o Took pride in work, discuss how much it bothered the individual for work to decline
o Attempted work despite difficulties after onset of symptoms, include any accommodations you made as an employer to change your expectations/job description in order to help the individual.
Family and Friend Statements Part I
The SSA has specifically recognized that the only person more aware of the day to day effects of an illness on an individual than his/her friends and family, is the claimant himself/herself. A spouse, adult child, sibling or best friend often sees things the claimant may not even realize are problems. Also, when a person endures a lengthy illness or condition, he/she may become so accustomed to making accommodations, they may not even notice them anymore and therefore may forget to mention them at hearing or in their application documentation. You should always start with how long you have known this person and your relationship to them. You can discuss what he/she was like before his/her illness and how that has changed. This may include hobbies, interests and/or work they once enjoyed but can no longer do.
Family and Friend Statements Part II
You may want to specifically address any of the following that apply to his/her circumstances. This list is intended as a starting point and does not include all possible difficulties. Does he/she:
o have any problems sitting still or standing for a short time?
o need to put his/her feet up or lay down during the day?
o have frequent diarrhea, nausea or accidents?
o have problems doing things with his/her hands?
o only lift a small amount because of pain or weakness
o have problems with balance or falling?
o experience fatigue?
o help with any chores? Does it take longer? Do they have to take breaks?
o have speech problems? get shortness of breath?
o get lightheaded or faint?
o use a wheelchair, walker or cane?
o have anxiety attacks or crying spells?
o have problems getting along with others or need to isolate?
o have any problems communicating with others?
o have problems with understanding simple things or concentrating