Friday, August 01, 2008

Doctor Records and the Social Security Disability Hearing

It’s a common catch-22 for many social security disability (SSD) applicants—the only way that they can prove physical or mental disability is to supply social security with medical evidence documenting their claim, and yet this can be extremely difficult when so many medical professionals today are reluctant, even unwilling, to get involved with disability cases.

Some physicians feel that disability cases are not part of “their job,” and that any time they spend helping patients in disability matters detract from their financial bottom line. Others may be willing to supply a patient with medical records, physician notes, etc., but will not take the time to write a statement detailing exactly what the patient’s symptoms are and how it affects his or her ability to perform work. If their notes do not provide this information, they will be of little if any help to the claimant seeking disability benefits.

If you are considering filing for disability, there are really two steps you should take regarding your medical documentation. The first is to review the records yourself, or, even better, to go over them with a disability lawyer well in advance of any disability hearing, to determine if they stand alone as evidence of the severe, disabling nature of your medical condition. The second step is to inform your physician that you are thinking of filing for disability, and asking outright if he or she is willing to supply any medical documentation needed to help you get approved for benefits.

Unfortunately, you may find that, although your doctor is well aware of your medical symptoms, he or she just doesn’t want to be involved with any disability case. Some physicians are even opposed to disability claims on “principle,” i.e., no free handouts, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, people got by in the old days without it, and so forth.

If you find that your physician is unwilling to help, it’s time to look for a physician who will be more compassionate and supportive of your needs. Do not wait until right before the hearing, when it may appear to a physician that you are merely doctor shopping for a favorable diagnosis. Instead, by reviewing your medical records well in advance and being knowledgeable of the evidence contained therein, look for a physician that has a lot of experience dealing with your particular diagnosis, and who will have a thorough understanding of the way its symptoms can limit your ability to cope with or to perform the daily living activities and past job duties necessary for you to earn a living wage.

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