There are many important factors in winning your Social Security disability claim. However, the top three most important things in proving you are disabled before the Social Security Administration are:
- Consistent Medical Treatment
- Supportive Medical Records
- Supportive Medical Opinion From Your Treating Physician
1. Consistent Medical Treatment:
When we talk about having consistent medical treatment, we mean that you are consistently showing up to your doctor’s office. To improve your odds of winning, you want to avoid having long gaps in medical treatment from the moment you believe your disability began. For example, if you are alleging you became disabled on January 10, 2019, and you start your application on March 5, 2020, then you need to show that you have been consistently going to your doctor’s office during that time. If you first start showing up to your doctor’s office in February 2020, then SSA will have a hard time determining that your disability started when you said it did, in January 2019. They will scratch their heads and say that they cannot find evidence that your disability started when you say it did because there is no medical record from that time to back up your claim.
To win, you want to show SSA that you have been fighting for your health, that you do everything your doctors have told you to do to get better, but despite all the treatments you’ve received, your impairments still disabled you. For example, if you claim that you have a severe and disabling depressive disorder, you want to demonstrate to SSA that you are the type of person who goes to see mental health specialists who treat you but have not been successful enough to where you feel you can hold down a full-time job. You do not want to rely solely on your doctor’s diagnosis; you want to show that you also seek treatment for your diagnoses, whether you have mental impairments, physical impairments, or a combination of both.
You want to be the person who takes their medications as prescribed. If the side effects of those medications are overwhelmingly and unbearably negative, you need to show that you are having conversations with your doctor about the negative side effects. You need to show that you have searched for alternative treatments or medications. You do not want to appear as if you have given up on their health. SSA
There are many valid reasons why people have gaps in their medical records. Sometimes treatment is economically unavailable. Other times people have a personal hesitation to seek treatment. If something prevents you from seeking and receiving care, please seek an experienced attorney’s office who can offer you knowledge and encouragement about getting consistent medical treatment. It is always better to start seeking care as early as possible.
2. Supportive Medical Records:
The best supportive medical evidence is objective medical evidence. Objective medical evidence refers to visible, measurable findings obtained by a medical examination, test, or diagnostic imaging. Common types of objective medical evidence are MRIs, X-Rays, CT scans, EKGs, ECGs, nerve conduction tests, laboratory results, pathological findings such as biopsies, full psychological evaluations, etc.
For example, if you suffer from degenerative disc disease of arthritis in your back, then you will want objective evidence is your medical record like an MRI or an X-Ray of your back. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, a learning disability, or other mental impairments, then you will want to have a mental health specialist perform a full psychological examination on you. When you have the evidence to support your disability claim, then it does not matter if the Social Security Administration believes what you or not because the objective evidence is so overwhelmingly supportive that it proves how bad your condition is.
3. Supportive Medical Opinion From Your Treating Doctor:
A strong supportive letter from your treating doctor can also be extremely helpful in winning your disability claim. But your doctor’s testimonial must be more than a quick couple of sentences that states “My patient cannot work and is disabled.” That is not a helpful, convincing letter.
A helpful letter from your doctor will have the following:
i. Your name, address, phone number, and the date of the letter. The doctor needs to describe the nature and length of the relationship with you and how frequently the doctor sees the claimant. The doctor should describe the treatments they have performed on you.
ii. The letter should have the doctor’s observations of your diagnoses and symptoms. It is helpful if the doctor notes what objective and/or subjective evidence formed the basis of the diagnoses. They should also include information regarding your prognosis.
iii. You will want the doctor to describe any negative side effects of medications and the nature and frequency of these side effects.
iv. Also, if possible, you will want your doctor to describe functional capacity (i.e. how long you can sit, stand, or walk, how much you can lift, how well you can interact with others, etc).
v. You want your doctor to describe how often per month you may be absent from work due to your impairments.
At Evans & Evans, we have tried to make this part of the process as easy as possible for you, your doctors, and other treatment providers. We have specially designed questionnaires that ask medical doctors these exact questions to make it easier for them (and you) to get this information. If you have any questions about how to strengthen the medical evidence in your claim, please contact us; we are here to help you.