Social Security Disability Medical Records
All disability decisions are based on the information contained in a claimant's medical records. If you have been receiving ongoing medical treatment for a physical mental impairment, and your doctor agrees that you are too disabled to work, then you may assume that you will have little difficulty being approved for Social Security Disability or SSI.
However, this is not necessarily the case, primarily because it is a Social Security Disability examiner, and not your personal physician, who will decide if your medical condition is disabling, or if you are still able to work in spite of your symptoms.
How is a disability examiner capable of rendering a medical opinion, given that the examiner is neither an M.D. nor a mental health professional? Disability examiners do have a certain amount of medical training, and are therefore familiar with common medical terminology and symptoms. More importantly, they are educated in the conditions set forth in the Social Security Handbook that must be met in order to meet the definition of disability as set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
In addition, a disability examiner gives greater weight to the opinions of the social security doctor in his unit and the processing unit supervisor than to a claimant's personal doctor.
Often a disability examiner or doctor will look at the exact same records as a claimant's treating physician, and interpret them quite differently. For this reason, those applying for disability benefits should ask their doctor for a copy of their medical records and become acquainted with what those records actually say about their condition.
Medical records and physician notes that do not include specific information about your symptoms and exactly how they limit your ability to work are not going to do you much good. It is actually fairly common for physicians to fail to provide such detailed information in their notes and patient records, probably due in some part to the fact that they do not work for the SSA and are not aware of what it takes to prove disability.
Because your medical records are so critical to your chances of being approved for disability, you should do everything in your power to make ensure that they are plentiful, detailed and readily available to the disability examiner in your case. Review your medical records so that you know if they support your claim and list activities that you are no longer able to perform due to your impairment.
If you retain legal counsel to represent you in your request for reconsideration appeal or your disability hearing, it's a good idea to work with your attorney or non-attorney rep in gathering your medical records or any statements your physician may be willing to write on your behalf, so that you can be sure that all of the relevant documents make it into the hands of those considering your claim as quickly as possible.
One other thing that can make the difference in getting approved for disability benefits is ongoing medical treatment for your condition'do not stop seeing your doctor after you have filed a claim, even if it has been turned down. Gaps in your medical history will only hurt your case, and make it seem as if your condition was not so serious after all, or at least not serious enough to require continuous care.
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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