Have you lost a job because you could no longer physically perform all of the duties required in that position?
For example, did your job require you to climb ladders or stairs, but because of your disability you can no longer climb ladders or stairs? And therefore, someone else has to do that for you? Or did your job require you to lift objects over 20 pounds but your doctor tells you not to do that anymore? Or do you now have to use a cane or walker and it slows down your pace when getting from one workstation to another?
Maybe you have lost jobs due to non-physical issues you have had, like not being able to get along with co-workers or customers, or not being able to handle stressful situations to the point you say or do things that get you in trouble. Or maybe you can’t concentrate enough to finish your work on time, or you are sick so often that you miss too many days from work.
All of these examples are just a few of the ways your disability can affect your ability to work. If you are still in touch with people you worked with at previous jobs where you were let go as a result of your disability, especially supervisors, you may want to reach out to them for help with your claim.
If your former employers and/or coworkers could complete a statement explaining the things they saw when you were working there or how your behavior or physical limitations affected others in the workplace, that could be very helpful in getting the judge and the other experts at your hearing to understand what you were like as an employee and why you would not be successful in trying to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
If you have a condition like bipolar disorder which may have resulted in your inability to keep a job for more than a few weeks or a few months, try to get statements from as many past employers as possible as to how long you worked there, what your demeanor was like when you started compared to when you left and why you left – whether you quit or were fired.
Coworkers and employers are good resources for you, because they do not have anything to gain if you obtain your disability benefits. They are not likely to be seen by the judge as having any ulterior motives in helping you with your claim.
If you do decide to have a former supervisor or coworker write a statement on your behalf about your performance on the job, try to have them discuss whether your health got worse gradually or suddenly. If it was gradual, have them map out a timeline as to how things changed and at what speed. Was it over the course of a year or only a month that they saw changes and it started to affect your work? Did you only have problems with one task and then more as time went by? Have them discuss your interactions with others on the job and with customers, if it was a business in which you deal with customers or the public. Also have them discuss your attendance and work quality. If those both decreased, then how much and when did the decline begin.
The more details that can be included, the better to help your case.
In support of the statements, it is a good idea to try to gather paycheck stubs, as well as any disciplinary records for at least the last 6-12 months of employment. If you were sick often while on the job and your place of employment had an infirmary or a nurse on duty, try to get records of how often you had to visit for illness.
While past employment information and records alone will not win your case, they can go a long way in helping give the judge a complete picture of how your life was before your disability and how it has changed because of your disability. The attorneys at Morgan & Weisbrod have many years of experience in working with former employers and co-workers to help strengthen your disability claim. Call us today for help with your disability claim!
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.