One way your medicines can affect your disability claim

In order to be approved for Social Security Disability (SSD) or supplemental security income (SSI), you must be able to demonstrate that you impairment is severe regardless of any attempt to improve it with medical intervention. For this reason, it is critical that you take your medications as prescribed by your physician.

If a disability examiner sees that you are not currently under a doctor's care for your impairment, or not taking your medication as prescribed and directed to do so (the issue is called medication noncompliance), the examiner may conclude either A) your symptoms are not so severe that they prevent you from functioning, or B) your symptoms are severe only because you are not taking your medicine. In either scenario, it would be unlikely to find yourself approved for disability benefits.

Medication compliance and noncompliance assumes an even larger role in the development and evaluation of SSD and SSI cases for which the major allegations are certain impairments.

Some impairments, such as seizure disorder (epilepsy), asthma, and ADHD, can be controlled with medication. Anti-seizure drugs and drugs commonly used to treat ADHD may, in some individuals, completely alleviate symptoms and allow them to lead normal, productive lives.

The only way to demonstrate to a disability examiner that you are not one of those people who are significantly helped by medication is to actually take your medication and have your physician document that that the functional limitations caused by your condition are severe enough to be disabling (according to the definition of disability used by the social security administration) despite your treatment regimen. In other words, that your medication, in effect, is not working.

In short, there is no way a disability examiner, or a disability judge for that matter, can make a decision on a disability claim unless it is clear that the condition cannot be helped by the available medical treatments. In recognition of this fact, some listings in the official social security list of impairments handbook (known as the bluebook and titled "Disability Evaluation under Social Security) such as the listings 11.02 and 11.03 for adult epilepsy) actually require that claimants prove their symptoms do not get better after ninety days of prescribed treatment before they can be approved for disability.

If you are applying for Social Security Disability and do not take your medication, you not only put your health at risk, but you will almost certainly set yourself up for a summary denial of your claim.

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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