Why your loved ones wait in the waiting room at your Social Security Hearing

A question I get asked repeatedly is why the loved ones of the claimant are asked to wait in the waiting room.  Why can’t we sit in the hearing with the person?

There really are a couple of reasons why

First, the hearing rooms are generally small.  There usually are not a lot of extra chairs.  In some rooms there would be nowhere for any observers to sit.

Next, the claimant may act, react, or answer differently with someone else in the room than they would without you there.  The judge needs to see how the person would react with the support of a loved one around.  You won’t be going to work with the person and they would not have the effect your presences causes there.  Further, there may be things the claimant has not told you or does not want to say in front of you but that the judge does need to hear.  Your presence may stop the claimant from full disclosure and harm the case.

Third, many times it is hard enough for the claimant to sit and listen to some parts of the discussion and not verbally react.  It will be even more difficult for you to sit and listen to the claimant say something, the attorney say something, the judge or one of the other witnesses and not try to jump in your self.  Many times this is to correct something you feel was not stated right.  The problem is your not a witness, you are not sworn in, and you cannot do this.  I have seen observers distract the claimants and even confuse the claimants by trying to get their attention during the hearing because the observer thought the claimant gave the wrong information.

Finally, you may be called as a witness in the case.  If so, you cannot observe the hearing prior to your testimony.  I do not like to use other witnesses in most of my cases because there is very little they can add to the record at that point and many times their testimony could end up harming the case when a tricky judge cuts them off, asks a question in a particular manner, or twists their testimony.  If I feel that other witness testimony is needed, I prefer to have that person write a letter to the judge which I can submit to the file.  It gets in what is needed to be said and keeps the judge from having the chance to question the person themselves.  Further, if the judge does not believe the claimant, the judge is not likely to change their mind by your testimony.  I do tend to use other witness testimony when I am doing disabled adult child cases or 12.05(c) cases  (these are usually young adults with intellectual disabilities).  Many times the parent(s) caring for the child is a valuable witness, just as they are in typical SSI child cases.

So, when you attend a Social Security Hearing with a loved one, do not be surprised to find yourself waiting in the waiting room.

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