Disability Lawyer


What is the Importance of the Substitution of Party’s Testimony?

Social Security makes the final decision on who is the appropriate substitution of party on a deceased claimant’s Disability Insurance Benefit claim.  Social Security looks for a substitution of party who is the closest next of kin.  In addition, Social Security will use the substitution of party to testify at the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing about the deceased claimant’s condition before the claimant’s death and during the relevant time frame. At the hearing, the ALJ will want to hear testimony about the deceased claimant’s abilities.  The ALJ will ask about the ability of the deceased to do household chores during the relevant time frame.  Was the claimant able to wash dishes, cook, sweep, mop, make his/her bed, do laundry, vacuum, and dust?  The substitution of party would then have the opportunity to respond to the questions. In addition, the ALJ will also want to hear testimony about the deceased claimant’s ability to care for his/her personal needs.  For example, “Did the claimant have any problems with grooming, bathing, dressing, and/or toileting?”  The substitution of party would then be allowed to testify about what the deceased claimant was able to do and not able to do. The ALJ will further want to know about the deceased claimant’s condition.  The ALJ will want to know what symptoms that the substitution of party notices about the deceased claimant’s condition.  For example, “Was the claimant in pain, if yes, how could you tell?”  The ALJ will want to know about both the physical and mental conditions that the deceased claimant suffered through. In addition, the ALJ will want to know about how the deceased claimant spent his/her day.  Questions like, what time did the deceased go to bed; what time did the deceased get up in the morning; did the deceased read, write letters, use the computer, watch TV, visit with friends and family members, go to church, and etc. The ALJ might focus on the condition(s) that caused the claimant to died.  Asking questions about how the deceased claimant was during the last few months versus the time frame before that.  Was there a change in the condition and if so, what was the change and when did it happen? As a result, the substitution of party’s testimony is very important.  The testimony allows the ALJ to better understand the condition and situation of the deceased claimant.  The testimony also allows the ALJ the opportunity to look at the big picture in regard to the deceased claimant.  The ALJ will know that the deceased claimant’s condition resulted in the death of the claimant.  The ALJ will be able to understand the difficulties that the deceased claimant was going through before their death and what was noticeable to the substitution of party. In conclusion, the substitution of party basically allows the ALJ to put a face to the deceased claimant.  The testimony of the substitution of party helps the ALJ understand the deceased claimant’s condition.  The testimony also allows the ALJ a chance to ask questions about any discrepancies in the medical records.  The testimony ends up being very valuable to the deceased claimant’s case.