When you hire a lawyer to represent you in your claim for Social Security Disability benefits, you and your attorney should consider it a partnership. You and your lawyer cannot successfully present your case unless you work together as a team throughout the entire process.
The most important piece in mounting a successful disability claim is your medical record. Your medical records are so important that discussing them will take up almost this entire blog. No one has ever won a disability claim without medical records. You may be the most honest person in the world, but the rules and regulations require a decisionmaker to rely on more than just your word when awarding SSDI benefits. Because of this, having a well-developed and complete medical record is the most important thing you can do to win your disability claim.
3 Tips for Working Better with Disability Attorney (and winning your claim)
1. Develop Your Medical Record
The decisionmaker is going to need to make a determination as to what sort of activities you are or are not capable of doing. For this you may need to consult your doctor, keep a diary, obtain additional medical documents, or see a specialist.
How long can you sit, stand and walk? How much are you able to lift? Do you take need to take breaks during the day? Would you need to be absent as a result of your condition(s)? Can you work with the general public, maintain focus and concentration throughout an 8-hour day?
These are just a few of the questions a decision-maker is likely going to need to answer when deciding your case. You should do all you can before and during the process to help answer those questions in your favor.
Be Descriptive When Talking to Your Doctor
Whenever you see one of your doctors be descriptive about how your ailments are impacting you on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis.
For example, if you are only able to stand five minutes at a time, tell your doctor that. When specific and descriptive information makes it into your medical record, it will help the Administration have a better idea as to your actual abilities.
Keep a Diary
If your ailments are regular occurring episodes like; panic attacks, crying spells, seizures, migraines or gout flare-up, you should record them in a diary.
In your diary, include the day, the time, the duration and the intensity of the episode. If you need to lay down or elevate your feet on a regular basis these too can be documented.
It is highly unlikely that you go to the emergency room or call your doctor every time these types of events occur so recording them in a diary is the only way that you can help the Administration know how these ailments affect you on a regular basis. This information is also likely to help your doctor provide you with the best treatment possible.
RFCs, LOS, Handicap Placard, Scripts
In addition to your regular medical records, you can obtain additional pieces of evidence to help a decision-maker decide in your favor.
The most powerful piece of supplemental evidence you can obtain is an RFC that was completed by your doctor. If you are unable to obtain an RFC from your doctor, the next thing you can do is ask for a Letter of Support. Your doctor can write a LOS on your behalf by explaining why you are unable to work. If you are unable to get a LOS, it would be appropriate to have a handicap placard included in your disability record. If your doctor is unwilling to fill out an RFC, perhaps he or she would be willing to write a limitation on a script saying things like, “patient needs to elevate leg x number of times per day for a certain duration to relieve pain” or “patient can only lift 10 pounds occasionally”.
Additionally, you should make sure that any prescriptions for canes or assistive devices, breathing devices and splints or braces make it into your file. Any and all of these items will be a great supplement to your actual medical record.
See a Specialist
Finally, if your condition is disabling, it is likely that you should see a specialist. A specialist will usually be better positioned to treat your ailment. Seeing a specialist will be a good indicator to a judge that your condition is more serious than what a primary care physician would normally deal with. A specialist is more likely to get more objective
evidence like MRIs. A specialist like a psychologist will better document the impact your mental ailments have on your day-to-day life. If you are able, seek out the help of a specialist.
2. Make Sure Your Medical Record is Complete
A well-developed medical record does you no good unless the Social Security Administration actually has it. The only way a record makes it into your Social Security file is if your lawyer knows it exists and makes the Administration aware of its existence. No one, but you, has that knowledge and it will be your responsibility to inform your attorney where and when you have received treatment.
In initial Application
In your initial application, the Administration will ask where you have obtained medical treatment. Be sure to include everything relevant to your claim. Also be sure that you are accurate in terms of the addresses and the phone numbers of your providers.
If you are denied at the initial level or reconsideration, be sure to review the denial to make sure that all of your records were requested and obtained. Make note of any records that did not make it into your file and be sure that they are added for the next level. Also make sure your file is updated by keeping your lawyer informed of doctor visits between decisions.
You May Need to Help Obtain Your Records
On a rare occasion, the Administration and/or your attorney will be unable to obtain a medical record.
It is often easier for your provider to ignore requests from outside third parties than it is for them to ignore a request from you. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call from you to make a provider respond to a request for medical records. If your attorney is unable to obtain a record, you should offer to help
3. Maintain Contact with Your Disability Attorney
This process can take years. Although contact is not needed daily or even weekly, be sure that you touch base with your law firm at least every few months. When your law firm contacts you, respond promptly, completely and accurately. You must also promptly inform your lawyer of any new medical providers so those records make it into your file when appropriate.
Finally, people move and people change phone numbers. Be sure to provide your attorney with updated contact information. Your lawyer will notify the Social Security Administration of these changes to ensure that you do not miss any important notices.