Facts about Plantar Fasciitis and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1. Plantar fasciitis affects the underside of the foot and the heel, due to inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia connects the heel to the toes in a thick band of tissue.
2. When the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, it also tightens, both of which cause pain in the heel and arches of the affected foot. The pain is usually worst in the morning, and feels better as the day goes on because the plantar fascia has loosened up and becomes more limber with movement.
3. Around two million people in the United States a year have plantar fasciitis. In a lifetime, 10 percent of the population will experience the condition.
4. Generally, plantar fasciitis develops gradually and occurs in only one foot. The pain may include spasms that feel like a stretching rubber band down the underside of the foot, and always includes sharp pain in the heel.
5. Plantar fasciitis typically develops in people between the ages of 40 and 60, but it affects women more often than men.
6. Early onset of the condition may occur in those who frequently do certain kinds of athletics, such as runners and dancers, and in those who are required to stand frequently due to their profession.
7. Obesity, bad feet, and wearing shoes with no arch support all contribute to plantar fasciitis as well.
8. Plantar fasciitis can become a chronic condition if it is not treated. Since plantar fasciitis changes the affected individual's walking pattern, it can lead to problems in the knees, hips and back. Bone spurs in the heel can also develop, requiring steroid shots or even surgery.
9. Plantar fasciitis is generally treated with arch supports, stretches, ice applications, and anti-inflammatory pain killers like ibuprofen. Avoid walking barefoot, even at home, and rest from weight bearing activities like running and switch to exercise that takes the pressure off the feet, like swimming.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
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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