Social Security Disability, SSI and more than one medical problem
It is actually somewhat rare for someone filing a disability application to list only one physical or mental impairment. In most cases, an applicant will cite more than one condition whose symptoms contributes to their state of disability.
Does it affect your disability claim if you have more than one medical problem? From the standpoint of a disability examiner (disability examiners work in the state agencies that handle initial SSD and SSI disability claims for the social security administration), whether an applicant lists one condition or several makes no real difference at all.
This is simply because the way SSA disability claims are decided, the emphasis is on what a claimant is still capable of doing despite the limitations that are caused by their condition (or conditions). Therefore, what a claimant has, i.e. diagnosed medical problems, is not the overriding factor in the the evaluation process.
And, of course, since disability examiners and the Social Security Disability system itself are intently focused on the concept of residual functional capacity, what a disability examiner looks for when reviewing medical records has more to do with objective signs of limitations versus names of conditions. And this information is then translated into an assessment that is labeled as RFC, or residual functional capacity.
Now, you may have noticed the mention of the word "objective" and if you've read this site before you may recall the assertion that was made regarding objectivity. In essence, the statement was that the Social Security Disability and SSI disability decision-making process is not objective, but, instead, subjective.
How do you turn objective evidence into subjective decision-making? Basically, the same way a referee makes a call in a game. What happens during a play is objective. How the referee sees it and calls it, though, is subjective.
In other words, though a disability claimant's medical records may be objectively stated, how the records are interpreted depends on the reviewer. And this, of course, is one of the chief problems of disability adjudication: there is a huge disconnect between cases that are decided at DDS and cases that are decided at disability hearings.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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