Social Security Disability and Medication
You do not have to have been prescribed medication in order to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) or SSI benefits. In fact, neither the social security administration nor DDS (the state disability determination service or agency that makes disability decisions for social security) defines any disabling condition based on what types of medications a claimant has or is currently taking.
Theoretically, any individual that files for disability could be approved for benefits, regardless of their medical history.
However, if you are not taking medicine to treat your symptoms and are filing for disability based on a medical condition that could be improved by medication, a disability examiner may question if you are truly disabled, or if it's possible that you could work if you took prescribed medication.
For instance, it is possible to effectively control epilepsy with seizure medication, asthma with steroids, symptoms of depression with antidepressants, etc. In such cases it is difficult for an individual to prove that their condition is disabling without having at least tried to alleviate the symptoms by taking medication. To the disability examiner or administrative hearing judge reviewing your case, it could appear that you are either not ill enough to have sought medical treatment, or that a physician did not think your condition was serious enough to prescribe medication.
So, although it is not necessary to be on medication to prove that you have a disability, it does make it harder to demonstrate medical compliance; that is, social security cannot determine your real functional capacity if you are not taking the medication commonly prescribed to treat your symptoms, and it will be difficult to make the case that you could not, with proper medical treatment, return to work.
This puts some who file for disability in an unfair position, because they may be uninsured, or unable to afford either to see a doctor or to buy the prescribed medication. Unfortunately, a lack of medical documentation in this area can hurt a claimant's case, and may make it impossible to win SSD or SSI benefits.
If you are applying for disability benefits but have no health insurance, it's a good idea to check out any free clinics or free prescription services in your area. Your local county health department or social services agency should be able to give you a list of such resources available in your area.
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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