One of the most important ways to strengthen your Social Security disability case is to continue to obtain medical treatment for your conditions. When evaluating your disability claim, Social Security will rely heavily on the medical records that are provided to them when reviewing your case. This includes visit notes from your primary care providers, medical records from hospital visits or admissions, physical therapy or chiropractor notes, specialist visit notes, or records related to any other treatment you have received for your medical or mental health conditions.
The first reason that it is important to receive medical treatment is to establish your date of disability. When completing your application, you will need to provide Social Security with your date of disability, known as your “alleged onset date.” This is the date when your conditions became severe enough that you were unable to continue working. In order to establish your alleged onset date, you will need to have medical treatment on or around that date to establish that you sought medical treatment for the condition around this time. The alleged onset date that you select will establish the amount of back pay that you are entitled to receive when your case is approved, so it is important to have medical documentation confirming that your condition was occurring on your alleged onset date. Further, the evaluators at Social Security will need to see that you have been diagnosed with a specific condition to establish that you have a severe impairment. For example, it is not enough to say that you have back pain; you will need documentation in your medical records diagnosing you with a specific medical condition (such as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or something related to your back pain). Note that, in addition to medical records, your earnings after your alleged onset date must fall below what Social Security calls “substantial gainful activity.” If you are unsure about which alleged onset date to select, it is best to consult with a professional. The experienced attorneys and legal team at LaBovick Law Group will help you select the best date to maximize the benefits you are entitled to receive.
In addition to establishing your alleged onset date, you will need to continue receiving medical treatment throughout the duration of time that Social Security is evaluating your claim. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration often moves very slowly, and the process can take a substantial amount of time. If your claim denies at the initial stage, it will then move to the reconsideration stage. If the reconsideration denies, the case will move to the hearing stage, where an administrative law judge will review your case and allow you the chance to testify regarding your conditions and the impact they have on your functioning and activities of daily living. If you reach the hearing stage and testify in front of an administrative law judge, the judge will review your medical records and determine whether the limitations which you testified to during the hearing are supported by the medical records in your file. It is therefore very important to receive as much treatment as possible so that the judge can review your level of functioning and limitations. It is important to continue treatment so that you can prove to the Social Security Administration that your condition has not improved and that you are still experiencing limitations in your ability to function. Otherwise, the evaluator may determine incorrectly that your condition has improved if you have not continued to receive treatment.
If the Social Security Administration believes that they do not have sufficient medical evidence in your file to make a determination regarding your condition, they may send you to a have an examination performed by a medical professional. If your conditions are physical in nature, SSA will send you to a medical doctor, who will assess factors such as your ability to stand, walk, lift, or perform fine and gross manipulations with your hands. If you suffer from mental health conditions, SSA will send you to a psychologist for an evaluation. Although these examinations can be helpful for winning your case, it is better to have medical records from your regular medical providers with whom you have established a relationship and who best understands you and your conditions. In addition, LaBovick Law Group can assist you and your provider with your case by providing them with a questionnaire to complete that addresses the specific factors that the Social Security Administration considers when evaluating your claim. If your case goes to a hearing, the judge will review your provider’s responses and often place great weight on your provider’s assessment of your condition and abilities, especially if the responses are consistent with the provider’s assessment of your conditions in his or her treatment notes.
Many clients struggle to obtain treatment due to cost or lack of health insurance. If you are in this situation, it is understandably very frustrating, as often medical insurance coverage is tied to employment. If you do not have health insurance, consider seeking out treatment through free or low-cost providers in your area. This will at least establish that your conditions are severe enough that you need to receive treatment. Further, medical providers typically perform a general examination and notate in your medical records their overall impressions of your musculoskeletal system, heart, lungs, and other body systems. The medical records will document any abnormalities, which will prove to Social Security that you have limitations in your abilities to perform work.
The injury attorneys at LaBovick Law Group are experts at reviewing your medical records and building a strong case based on your conditions. It is not always easy to know what aspects of your medical condition Social Security considers to be important when evaluating your case, so it is important to seek professional guidance. Give LaBovick Law Group a call at (561) 625-8400 for a free case evaluation. We can answer any questions you may have about the disability benefit process and build you the strongest case possible.