Will my doctor help me on my disability case?
If you have a good doctor (one who is actually familiar with you, and has an established history of treating you)...then you might get help from your doctor on your social security disability or SSI case.
What do I mean by help? This falls into two areas primarily. The first is obvious and this means providing your medical records (to you, the disability examiner or judge, or your attorney or non attorney representative) in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, many doctors and hospitals do not provide records in a timely manner, though they often do a better job of this when they receive numerous phone calls from an attorney's office "inquiring on the status of a record request". By and large, though, getting records from a doctor's office is not a significant roadblock in most cases.
What can be difficult, though, is getting a doctor to provide a detailed statement that is actually useful in substantiating your disability case. If you're wondering, "won't my medical records be enough?", the answer is very often no. Medical records list recorded observations and diagnoses. But doctors are generally remiss when it comes to indicating a patient's functional limitations. Yet this is EXACTLY what the social security disability and SSI programs are looking for.
The concept of residual functional capacity is this: what an applicant for disability is still capable of doing despite the effects of their illness. This is what a disability examiner or disability judge needs to know to make a decision on a case. And, for this reason, it is very helpful when a doctor provides a detailed statement that actually describes the limitations of a patient/claimant. Unfortunately, doctors records very often don't address residual functional capacity in a specific way.
Even worse, many doctors are not inclined to assist patients who needs assistance when a disability claim is being filed.
Here's a statement from a doctor, as told to me by a friend who is, herself, filing for disability. The statement is from a rheumatologist who diagnosed her with fibromyalgia. However, when she mentioned she was applying for disability, his only response was:
"I don't want to have anything to do with that"
Obviously, this is not the kind of doctor that a sick or injured person wants to have anything to do with either.
What kind of doctor is this? I'll tell you: the kind of doctor who does not want to be bothered by having to take 15 minutes to pull your medical file and then either A. fill out a statement supplied by a disability attorney (usually a brief check-off sheet) or B. writeup a brief statement indicating your limitations and restrictions.
Sadly, there are a lot of these doctors out there. And for this reason, before you even apply for disability, it may not be a bad idea to speak with your doctor to gauge whether or not he'll be helpful or indifferent to your case. Because that may be the time to consider finding a new doctor.
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