Not all evidence for a Social Security Disability case is helpful
As a disability examiner for social security administration, I would occasionally be sent huge packets of information by claimants that were, for lack of a better phrase, not especially useful.
This was often an attempt on the part of the claimant to supply additional information in support of their claim, including medical records. Which was admirable because, ideally, a claim will be best served when the adjudicator (a disability examiner or a disability judge, depending on what level the claim is at) is given as much information as possible, particularly medical record documentation.
However, not all documentation that a claimant might consider useful medical evidence...actually is. Here's a short of what is and what is not useful.
1. Admission and Discharge summaries from hospitals. Definitely useful.
2. Nurses notes from a hospital. Not useful at all.
3. Treatment notes from a claimant's doctor, or treating physician. Very useful.
4. Chiropractor records. I know some people swear by the services rendered to them by their chiropractor; however, social security does not consider chiropractors to be medical treatment sources and so their records are not considered medical evidence. If you send in records from your chiropractor, how will they be viewed? They won't be read at all, most likely, unless an xray report is also included.
5. Xray films. Not useful. Why? Because a disability examiner or a Social Security Disability judge is not a medical professional. Neither individual is qualified to interpret a raw film.
6. An xray report with the interpretation of the xray film. Useful.
7. Printouts from your pharmacy. Not useful.
By all means, if you apply for Social Security Disability, send in whatever medical records you have, and always notify social security regarding doctors and hospitals that have provided treatment, and sources of treatment that they may not be aware of. However, keep in mind that not everything printed on paper actually constitutes medical evidence.
How can you distinguish between the two? There are two ways. First of all, for social security administration purposes, medical evidence is that which has at its source a medical doctor (chiropractors and homeopaths are out, and nurse's notes are not useful).
Secondly, useful medical evidence is that which actually says something about a claimant's residual functional capacity, i.e. their remaining ability to work. How this translates on paper is this: records should ideally state A) a claimant's limitations in terms of muscle strength, range of motion, and ability to persist in certain actions such as sitting, walking, etc, and B) should offer a prognosis regarding the claimant's diagnosis and functional capacity.
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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