Help Your Doctor Help You to Win Social Security Disability or SSI

This title might strike some as odd. Isn't your doctor supposed to be the one who, in an ideal world, helps you to win disability benefits? How do you, as the claimant, help your doctor you in this goal? Is it even possible?

Actually, it is. Here's why. Social Security Disability claims and SSI claims are decided on one thing. Medical evidence. That medical evidence for a disability claim can be translated into many forms, including physician's notes, discharge summaries, and completed RFC forms from treating physicians. However, it all comes down to medical evidence. But, more than that, the social security administration is not simply looking for medical evidence, but what that evidence says about your ability to work and inability to work.

Many claimants who file for disability make the mistaken assumption that SSA (the social security administration) focuses entirely on the diagnosed conditions that a claimant has. But, in actuality, SSA is not concerned with the condition so much as it is with the limitations that are caused by the condition.

In a nutshell, SSA, when it reviews your medical records, is looking to see whether or not your condition (or conditions) limit you enough so that you are not able to A) perform your past work and B) transition to some form of other work.

So, when a disability examiner or disability judge (an administrative law judge) reviews your medical records, they are looking for signs of limitations. Are you unable to lift more than a certain amount of weight? Do you have trouble sitting for longer than a certain amount of time? Do you have range of motion problems that restrict your ability to reach? Do you have trouble balancing, seeing, hearing, smelling, etc, etc.

The problem, however, is that most doctors don't do a good job of recording a person's functional limitations in their medical notes. In fact, they do a miserable job and as a disability examiner I sometimes found it quite impossible to find any reference whatsoever to a claimant's residual functional capacity anywhere in a doctor's records.

So, back to the title of this post, you can actually help your doctor to "help you" (when they compile their office notes, or, even better, write a detailed statement on your behalf for your disability claim) by letting them know, when you see them on visits, what your functional limitations and problems are.

I.E. if you are having mobility problems, let your doctor know. If you are experiencing pain, let your doctor know. If you are having trouble sitting, standing, walking, grasping, reaching, etc, etc, let your doctor know. And you have to be consistent with this. Because, in many instances, your doctor will not think to ask such questions. But by volunteering the information yourself you can hopefully get your physician to record it in his or her notes. And at that point it becomes medical evidence for your case.

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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