Maintaining Up to Date Medical Records
Social Security considers many factors when deciding whether or not to grant disability benefits, including your testimony, the findings of their doctors, the opinions of vocational (job placement) experts, and more. The most important factor Social Security considers is the content of your medical records. Although Social Security does consider the combination of many kinds of evidence, they place the most weight on your medical records, and these records are created and maintained by your doctors. For this reason, it is extremely important that you see your own doctors regularly, follow their medical advice, and keep them updated about your symptoms.
Primary Care Physicians and Specialists
Social Security may send you to see one of their own doctors for an evaluation at one or more times during the course of your case, or not at all. You should not rely on Social Security’s doctors to provide all of the medical evidence needed to prove your case.
To build a strong case for Social Security disability benefits you should have your own doctors whom you see regularly before you file your application and you should continue seeing them throughout the course of your disability claim and even after your benefits have been granted. You should start with a family doctor (primary care physician or PCP), and this doctor can refer you to specialists appropriate to help treat your conditions. For example, your PCP can refer you to a psychiatrist and therapist or counselor for mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Your PCP can refer you to a rheumatologist for fibromyalgia, an endocrinologist for diabetes, pain management and/or an orthopedic specialist for back problems, and so on.
You should have appointments with your doctors regularly, as often as they feel is appropriate. Be sure to keep these appointments, or reschedule them if you must miss the appointment, as it will not help your case if your records are filled with “No Shows.” This can give Social Security the impression that you are not complying with your treatment, or not taking it seriously.
Sometimes, a doctor may tell you that they don’t feel your condition is going to improve, and there is nothing more they can do to treat you. If this should happen, ask this doctor if there is anyone else they can refer you to who might be able to help you. If the doctor feels that no physician could help you, ask if you can still have appointments with this doctor occasionally, perhaps two or three times a year. This way, the doctor can examine you and make a note in your medical records showing that your condition has not improved. You may also wish to seek a second opinion to be sure another doctor does not feel differently. If you cease seeing doctors, even as a result of your doctor’s own advice, Social Security may think your condition is not serious.
Follow Medical Advice
You should be sure to comply with any medical advice your doctors give you. This may include taking prescribed medication, referrals to other specialists, medical testing, dietary and lifestyle changes or restrictions, and so on. If you are experiencing side effects from medications your doctor has prescribed, you should report this to your physician’s office immediately. Wait for your doctor’s guidance on how to proceed, as it can be dangerous to discontinue medications without your doctor’s supervision. If you are having trouble affording prescribed medication, payments for appointments with specialists, charges for medical testing, you should discuss this with your doctor. Your doctor may come up with a more affordable alternative for you, contact your medical insurance, or suggest other programs you may qualify for that could assist you. If you have concerns regarding your doctor’s advice, you should discuss this with your doctor, and seek a second opinion. If you simply disregard your doctor’s advice and do not discuss it with the doctor or seek a second opinion, this could harm your Social Security case and it may also make your doctor less likely to be supportive of you. Your doctor’s support, though not absolutely required, can be very helpful in proving your disability.
Keep Your Doctor Up to Date
Finally, you should be sure to keep your doctors updated about all the symptoms you are experiencing. In between appointments, you should call your doctor’s office to report any current symptoms that have worsened and/or any new symptoms that develop, or make a note so that you do not forget to tell your doctor during your next appointment. Always call your doctor immediately or go to the hospital if you develop any severe or potentially life-threatening symptoms! When you see the doctor for an appointment, report any symptoms you have experienced since your last visit. You should make sure to report all of your symptoms, even if it feels like you are repeating yourself or if you feel your doctor should already know what’s going on. For example, if you see the doctor for back pain and you told her about your back pain during your last visit, you should still mention it again at your next visit if you are still experiencing the back pain. If you neglect to mention an important symptom, your doctor may think your condition has improved, and Social Security may think this as well if they do not see all your symptoms reported in your medical records.
Your complete medical history is key to a successful outcome in your claim for Social Security Disability benefits. It is up to you to maintain a positive and professional relationship with all of your physicians, to make sure that you are in communication with them regarding your condition, seeing the proper specialists, and keeping your appointments.
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