Gathering letters from people who know you can be helpful to your disability case, if you ask the right people and urge them to include the information that Social Security cares about.
Social Security wants to hear from people who have first-hand knowledge of your condition and how it limits your ability to function. Letters from friends and family can be helpful if they see you often and can describe concrete examples of your impairment. For example, a friend who comes over to help you organize your medication every week because you cannot remember which pills to take on which day could write a useful letter describing how your memory problem keeps you from being able to take your medication. In contrast, a letter from a friend repeating what you have told her about your memory problem will not be helpful.
Do not send Social Security as many letters as you can collect from everyone you know. More is not better when it comes to letters supporting your case. Instead, consider which one or two people have the most information about your impairment, and submit letters from them. It will not help your case to have a dozen letters in your file if none of them provide firsthand information that supports your claim.
Caregivers are often very good sources for letters of support. If you have a person who helps you with tasks on a regular basis, that person will be able to describe how your condition prevents you from being able to do everything you need to do. Caregivers can be paid professionals, like in home care nurses, or they can be unpaid family members. The important thing is that they include details in their letters and that they do not generalize or just repeat things that you have told them.
Below is a sample letter from the caregiver of a person who is applying for disability for her rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A letter like this cannot be the only evidence of disabling RA, but it is helpful evidence of functional problems that are part of an RA claim.
Another kind of letter that is particularly helpful in a disability case is a letter from an employer. Most often, these are letters from former employers. It can be awkward to approach former employers to ask for supporting letters, but it is often worth the embarrassment. If you were fired because of poor performance that was tied to your condition, a letter from the employer who fired you can be powerful evidence for Social Security that you are not employable in that field.
Below is a sample letter from a former employer for a claimant who is applying for disability on the basis of his bipolar disorder. To win a disability case for a mental disorder, you will need medical evidence from a psychiatrist, but a letter like this can help show how your mental illness has made it hard or impossible for you to hold down a job.