This is an interesting question which we hear a lot. Many doctors never advise their patients to apply for disability benefits. In fact, many won’t even bring up the subject unless their patient brings it up first.
A doctor may be concerned that if their patient applies for disability benefits, that’s evidence that their treatment methods have failed and could lead to a prognosis of a chronic (or ongoing) condition. Chronic conditions are known to not get better and only continue to grow worse. No one likes to think of being sick and never getting better. Especially a doctor, where their primary concern is their patients’ wellbeing. Furthermore, some doctors may not feel qualified to address this subject. The D-word is not just a medical term. A disability determination also involves some economic, educational, and legal matters.
It’s important to overcome these obstacles, because a treating physician’s opinion is usually the key component of a disability claim. An SSI lawyer near you in the greater mid south at Heermans Social Security and Disability Law Firm will provide a FREE disability evaluation. The importance of an attorney’s representation while preparing for a disability claim and during the claim process helps to make the claim process easier and faster.
At Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, our SSA law firm attorneys do more than collect evidence to build your claim. We also give advisory support to applicants during their doctor appointments and they occasionally interface with their doctors. Keeping all scheduled doctor appointments is critical to building a disability case and a simple letter from your doctor could exponentially increase your chances of obtaining the benefits you deserve and need.
Enlisting Your Doctor’s Help
The disability conversation is always difficult. In fact, having any conversation with a physician is often difficult. On average, doctors listen to their patients for about eleven seconds before they redirect or interrupt them. As soon as you mention the D-word, that eleven seconds might become decreased to eleven nanoseconds. But, the question has to be asked of them.
We touched on some of the reasons for this reluctance above. Additionally, to many doctors, a disability application means more paperwork. Between insurance rules and government regulations, this can mean more required documentation and an increased workload on both the doctor and staff. Usually, it is simply more work for the doctor – simple as that.
So, after you broach this subject, let your doctor set the parameters for an in-depth conversation. If your doctor wants to talk about it right then, talk about it then and there. If your doctor wants you to set an appointment, which is more likely, be cooperative according to their directive and be sure to show up for all scheduled appointments and referrals .
During this conversation, start by talking about the ways the doctor’s treatments have helped. Everyone likes to be affirmed. Then, say something about your condition like, “But I’m still having problems with [fill in the blank].” The goal of the conversation is to open up the topic of your ability to work and how your condition has affected your past, present and future working life.
Some doctors may answer with a concrete yes or no. Most are more receptive to immediately discussing this topic in terms of a person’s current work limitations. Working with your disability attorney can help understand your options and navigate the subject of your doctor(s) conclusions on your ability to work now and the future. A letter from your doctor stating that you have a disability which affects your ability to work is not the same as a completed Medical Source Statement (MSS).
The Disability Determination Process
Essentially, a treating physician’s completed MSS satisfies one of the five disability determination prongs. There are still four to go.
- Current Employment: If you earn more than $1,310 a month, you are not disabled. Period. Most people naturally push themselves as hard as they can in this area. They go to work when they don’t feel like going. That can-do attitude is very good in many contexts, but it could hurt yourself further when you are ill and affect your disability claim.
- Listed Condition: If your illness or injury is in the SSA’s Blue Book, there is a presumption that you are unable to work. Benefits are also available for unlisted conditions, if the applicant proves that it’s substantially similar to a Blue Book condition and that it is severe enough to prevent SGE (Substantial Gainful Employment).
- Current Employment Capacity: This disability prong is basically straight forward. Most people are not working because they cannot work, not because they don’t want to work. However, these two things sometimes overlap.
- Potential Employment Capacity: Based on the applicant’s age, vocational background, educational background, and other factors, the applicant must be unable to do any other kind of work. Attorneys can sometimes advise working with vocational experts in this area. All these factors are important, but age is usually the most important one. The SSA basically assumes that people over 50 cannot be effectively re-trained in a new vocation.
The other prong is the severity of the disability. Based on the MSS, you must be unable to perform a key job function, and this inability must be expected to last at least a year, or the condition must be terminal.
The Benefits Process
Social Security Disability claims usually consist of an initial review and an appeal. Occasionally, however, petitioners obtain maximum benefits at the initial review stage, so there’s no need for an appeal.
Success at the initial review stage is usually a matter of having the right evidence and presenting it the right way. In other words, most people win or lose this initial review before it starts. If all the evidence is there and it’s presented the right way, the Claims Examiner might well approve your petition. A breakdown in either area usually means a full or partial denial.
These denials are part of the process. Claims Examiners know that frustrated petitioners often, either drop their claims or settle them for less than they are worth. So, don’t give up. You’ve already done so much work and gone so far. If your SSD/SSDI claim has been partially or completely denied, contact Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm for a disability case review.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the process is the long wait time for an appeal hearing. Many claimants must wait many months for their day in court. Because of delays associated with COVID-19, today’s wait times are even longer in many cases. Try to look on the bright side. The added time gives your attorney more time to prepare. Additionally, if you win, the benefits may be retroactive to the filing date. In many cases, the back benefits could be thousands of dollars.
Additionally, many Social Security Disability claims settle out of court. The closer the hearing date gets, the more the SSA wants to bring it to completion. So, many claims don’t settle until the last minute. For more information about the Social Security disability claims process, contact Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, the SSI disability lawyers serving Memphis and the greater mid-south region of Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. We are available 24/7 by text or you can give us a call at (901) 244-0057.
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