Open, honest and accurate communication between you and your doctor is not only essential to your health, but is especially important if you are applying for Social Security Disability (SSD).
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will rely on your doctor’s (as well as your other healthcare practitioner’s) records, including progress notes and diagnostic testing, as well as your doctor’s statements, to determine if you are disabled. SSA must consider the opinions of your doctor concerning your impairments and how your impairments affect your functioning, as your doctor is the professional most likely to provide informed and valid information concerning your various diagnoses, treatment, response to treatment and your functioning and prognosis.
During a visit to your doctor, it’s important to clearly and accurately communicate your symptoms and concerns. Below, we’ve listed some tips for patients regarding talking to your doctor about your disability.
Seek out specialists for your particular condition. The Social Security Administration expects patients to be treated by doctors who have experience working with your particular impairment. For example, if you have a heart problem, you may need the care of a cardiologist. For an immune impairment, such as rheumatoid arthritis, you may need the specialized care of a rheumatologist. Similarly, for a psychiatric impairment, such as bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety, seek out the care of a psychiatrist, psychologist, or qualified therapist. Social Security may give more credence to the opinion of a specialist in your particular condition rather than a general practitioner.
Describe your symptoms accurately and completely. Be as precise and descriptive as possible when visiting your doctor. This will help your doctor keep your doctor informed as to how your various conditions affect you and will allow your doctor to provide better treatment. Social Security also will look to what your doctor has documented about your conditions to determine how your impairments affect your functioning. Of course, medical problems are not always manifested in symptoms alone. That’s why your doctor’s examination, blood work, MRIs, and other tests are invaluable to not only to your health but your Social Security Disability claim.
Visit your doctors as often as necessary. Follow your doctor’s orders concerning how often you need an appointment based upon your conditions and the necessary treatment. A failure to follow prescribed treatment not only can have negative health consequences, but can negatively affect your Social Security disability claim.
Consider having your doctor give, in writing, their opinion about your conditions and your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). Your Residual Functional Capacity is an assessment of the level of the activity that you are capable of given all of your physical, mental restrictions and environmental restrictions. An RFC statement from the doctor sets forth your restrictions in several key areas, such as walking, standing, sitting, lifting and carrying. An RFC statement from your doctor may be helpful in your disability claim because SSA can give controlling weight, or at least some importance, to your doctor’s opinions. Of course, your doctor’s opinion may describe less symptoms than you believe are true, so be sure to check with your doctor to be sure you both are “on the same page” when you discuss this important issue. Once again, this demonstrates the importance of open and honest communication.
Don’t forget your lawyer. Finally, be sure to speak with your lawyer about your claim and what must be proven to establish disability. Your medical professional may not know how SSA evaluates your particular impairment. Your lawyer can help educate both you and your doctor about Social Security disability law.