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Letters From Friends and Family About Your Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income Disability Claim

By R. M. Bottger

Many people who apply for Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits have friends and family members write letters for them. Most of these letters don’t make any difference to the person’s disability claim; however, some letters make the difference between an allowance and a denial. What kinds of information should friends and family members include in their letters?

When I was a disability determination specialist, I saw many letters from friends and family members of people applying for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits.  Many of these letters gave a diagnosis. For example, letters would say something like “I am writing to verify that my sister Jane Smith has heart trouble” or “My neighbor John Jones has schizophrenia.” This kind of information from friends and family is not helpful. The Social Security Administration will rely upon the medical evidence to evaluate your medical condition; friends and family members are not qualified to diagnose your condition.

            Friends and family members also would often write statements such as “I am writing to confirm that my father Sam Johnson is unable to work due to his arthritis” or “My friend Sue Lane is totally disabled due to her seizures.” These types of statements are not helpful either. The Social Security Administration will decide whether your condition prevents you from working. The Social Security Administration will decide if you qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The opinions of friends of family members won’t make any difference to your Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income disability case.

            If you have only physical conditions (no mental conditions), then nothing your friends and family members can say in their letters will really help your Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income disability case. The Social Security Administration will rely upon medical evidence to evaluate your physical condition.

            If you have a mental impairment, letters from family and friends can help your Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income disability case. If you have friends or family members write letters for you, be sure to have them give your name and Social Security number in the letter. The writer of the letter should give his name, his or relationship to you, how long he or she has known you, and his or her address and phone number. The author of the letter should describe individual incidents or ongoing behaviors that the author of the letter has observed that illustrate how your mental condition affects you. These should be things that the author of the letter has personally observed. These should be very specific. General statements such as “she has anxiety” are not very helpful. Have the author of the letter describe as many events or behaviors as possible.

            Here are some examples of the types of statements that would be helpful:

        • “My husband’s memory loss is so bad that he never remembers to brush his teeth or comb his hair. I have to tell him to do it, and stand right next to him while he does it to make sure it gets done.”
        • “We no longer allow my mother to cook because while cooking she wanders off and forgets that she has something cooking. Last month, she set the kitchen on fire. Since then, we no longer allow her to cook.”
        • “John looks out the front window every few minutes all day long because he thinks someone is watching the house.”
        • “Sue will not leave her house without someone with her because of her anxiety. I go grocery shopping with her because she has to have someone with her when she leaves the house.”
        • “Sarah is disoriented to time. She often calls me at inappropriate times such as three or four in the morning. I remind her that I have to work and that she shouldn’t call me at such times. However, she doesn’t know what time of day it is, so she continues to call at inappropriate times.”
        • “Last week, Marge got lost on the way to church. She has attended that church for years. She called me on her cell phone, and I had to go get her.”

            In conclusion, a well-written letter describing behaviors or events that the letter’s author has observed can make a difference in mental cases for Social Security disability benefits. 

 

 

  

  


 
 

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