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A few years ago, I was in a pretty serious car accident. During the aftermath, I became really familiar with a lot of different types of lawyers. I worked with personal injury lawyers, insurance lawyers, and many others. Perhaps the most important, though, was the estate planning lawyer. I was really young, and neither my wife or I had thought about starting a will. But the accident kind of scared us into it. What would happen if one of us were to die? Even when still in the hospital, I was working with the lawyer to draw up a will. Now, I have some peace and security about what the future will be like if something should happen to me. And I have a lot of experience working with various types of lawyers! The accident was kind of a blessing in disguise in that way.

Can Personal Letters From Friends, Relatives, Or Others Help You Win Your Disability Claim?


Can a letter help you win your Social Security disability claim? Possibly. How much weight the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) gives a letter in support of your disability claim depends a lot on whom the letter is from, what it has to say, and how it's written. This is what you need to know.

Ask The Right People

The only people that the ALJ is going to be interested in hearing from are those who can contribute to the overall picture that the ALJ has of your situation through first-hand information.

Consider asking a former boss or co-worker who has first-hand knowledge of how your disability affected you on the job. He or she can detail the specific demands of your job and attest to the fact that you weren't able to do the work without help, needed extra time, or just had to be let go.

If a friend, family member, or neighbor assists you on a regular basis doing things like shopping, cleaning, taking care of the lawn, doing laundry, or grocery shopping, ask that person to write a letter stating what he or she does, how often he or she does it, and why.  

When the ALJ asks you about how you manage to get groceries, stay fed, and keep your house in order, it's helpful to have evidence on hand that supports your statements. It adds to your credibility as a witness, and might sway an ALJ who is wavering about whether or not to approve your claim.

Important Things To Remember 

When someone is writing a letter to the ALJ on your behalf, he or she will likely have questions about how to write the letter and what to include. Here are some important guidelines:

  • It's hard to pack a lot of details into a short letter, but easy to lose an ALJ's attention with a long one. Keep the letter brief. A single page is ideal.
  • State the relationship between you and the letter writer, whether it is that of friend, relative, neighbor, former employer or hired caregiver.
  • The writer should describe what he or she does for you, how often, and why. For example, does your daughter prepare all your meals for you because your back injury prevents you from standing long enough to cook? Does your brother drive you to all your appointments because you are too fatigued to drive?
  • What has he or she personally observed in regards to your disability? Have your concentration problems caused you to forget to pay your bills? Do you tire out and require sleep after 1/2 hour trip to the grocery store? Do you need help getting in and out of the bathtub because of your arthritis?
  • Has the level of assistance remained constant, or gotten worse with time?
  • Make sure that he or she would be willing to stand up in court and testify to anything that he or she puts in writing. While it's unlikely that would be necessary, the letter is going to be considered evidence in your claim, so it must be truthful.
  • Have the letters notarized. Many attorneys have notaries on staff for just that purpose.
  • Have your attorney review every letter before you submit it to the Social Security Administration. Your attorney may want to reserve some of them until you are actually at the hearing, to be produced if they become relevant. 

Outside Observations Are Important 

Your attorney may also find personal letters like this to be a rich source of detailed information that may help you in other ways.

People with disabilities often develop ways to cope and survive over time, and you may have become so used to your condition that you no longer notice just how hard your struggle really is. Outside observations can often reveal things about your disability that might otherwise go unmentioned, but could significantly impact your case.

For example, your caregiver may have observed that you've become socially withdrawn due to pain and fatigue. It may have happened so gradually that you don't even think about it anymore and have never mentioned it to your social security disability claims lawyer. However, that's an important detail that could improve your chances of being approved for disability.

Personal letters can help you win your case under certain circumstances. When you appear before the ALJ, he or she will likely have questions about how you survive on a day-to-day basis. Letters that document your limitations, and provide answers about how you manage to cope, can prove invaluable. 


6 January 2015