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What role do lay witnesses play at a disability hearing?

In our work as Jeffersonville disability attorneys, we often are asked, "Can my family and friends testify on my behalf at my disability hearing?" In many cases, the answer to this question is, "Yes." Testimony from "lay" witnesses (that is, non-expert witnesses) can provide persuasive evidence of your disability. Potential lay witnesses include your friends, neighbors, clergy, former co-workers or supervisors, and your spouse. Here are some areas in which these witnesses may offer testimony:

Residual functional capacity

Your "residual functional capacity" or RFC is your ability to perform work-related functions (e.g., to sit, stand, walk, lift and carry objects, concentrate), despite the limitations caused by your impairment. The Social Security rules and regulations require that, in determining your RFC, the decision-maker consider the descriptions and observations of your impairement-related limitations provided by your family, neighbors, friends, or other persons.

Mental impairments

If your claim for Social Security disability benefits is based on a mental impairment, lay witness testimony can shed light on your RFC (e.g., your ability to concentrate, work at a consistent pace, tolerate stress), and your ability to manage your daily activities and to handle social situations.

Past relevant work

Your former employer or a co-worker may be able to testify about the nature and job requirements of your past work.


If pain is a symptom of your impairment, the observations of lay witnesses can be persuasive evidence of the impact of your pain on your daily activities and your ability to work. The people closest to you - your family and friends - are recognized as reliable sources of information regarding: the precipitating and aggravating factors of your pain; your treatment and response to treatment; your medications and response to medications; your efforts to work; and other related factors.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome)

The Social Security rulings specifically recognize the value of lay witness testimony regarding the impact of these two impairments on a claimant's ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

Contact the Jeffersonville disability attorneys

Lay witness testimony may help to bolster your claim for disability benefits, but these witnesses will only be effective if they understand the hearing process and the importance of their role in your case. The experienced Jeffersonville disability attorneys will make sure your witnesses are prepared to give their best testimony. If you would like to speak with us in advance of your hearing, please call or email our office, or submit the Free Claim Evaluation form on this page.


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