Things you can do to help prepare for – and win – a disability case
Ask the Advocate
May 11, 2019
Question: I have a hearing coming up in the next several months. I am very worried that I won't be prepared or worse yet, Social Security will not have all of my records. Can you tell me what I need to do to be prepared?
Signed: Stressed in California City
Ask the Advocate: I am so glad that you are asking this question before you get to the hearing. Keep in mind that new rules require the submission of evidence five business days before the hearing. The list below will help you get ready.
1. Tell all your doctors about all your symptoms. If you have depression and you go to your primary doctor or a referral to a specialist, fill out a health questionnaire, and check NO, you do not have any mental health problems; it makes you look less believable.
2. Social Security disability is a system based on medical problems and how these medical problems affect your ability to work – full time. This means that Social Security puts a lot of weight on what is written in your medical records, and much less weight on what you say when you fill out their forms. Social Security is looking for supportability and consistency in the medical records. If you have, for instance, bad back pain, but it is only mentioned in one medical record a year, it is much less impressive than if you mention it at each of 10 doctor visits. It is important that your doctor writes it in your records.
3. Prepare a list in advance of each doctor visit. When the nurse or the doctor asks you: "Why are you here?" You can say: "I still have these 10 problems, and the most important one to me today is my flu symptoms." Hopefully, the nurse/doctor will write all 10 problems in the medical records.
4. Tell Social Security about ALL of your symptoms (and diagnoses). Often, people have more than one problem: for example you might have arthritis, gout and bipolar disorder. Social Security must consider the functional limitations caused by each symptom (if it is linked to a diagnosis).
5. If mental illness is a significant issue, the person should strongly consider using both a psychiatrist (and primary care doctor) to prescribe medications and a therapist. Why? Two reasons: Medical research shows the best treatment outcomes with a combination of medication and therapy. Second, therapists are usually more willing to fill out the documents necessary to win a disability case.
6. KEEP THINGS! Schools get rid of files incredibly quickly these days. IEPS, school evaluations, disciplinary reports, etc., demonstrate a long record of problems. Job evaluations, discipline reports, etc., demonstrate how the symptoms affect work. Police reports, evictions, multiple short term jobs all document problems.
7. Most people with mental health symptoms have periods (hours, days, weeks or months) when they function better and other periods when they function worse. When describing symptoms, it is important to illustrate both types of functioning and, if possible, specify the frequency of each.
8. Trying to work while applying for disability is okay. If you succeed, you have a job. If you fail, it is good evidence.
An Accredited Disability Representative with more than 20 years experience, Diana Wade believes her clientele can be comfortable knowing that she is recognized by SSA and a charter member of NADR. To contact Ms. Wade call (661) 821-0494, email [email protected] or visit http://www.CaliforniaDisability.net.