Sunday, February 17, 2008

South Carolina Disability Lawyer discusses the value of a Questionaire from a Treating Physician

Client N is a woman in her mid 60s. She originally had no legal representation and went to a hearing before a Federal Administrative Law Judge.

In my experience, some judges are better than others about dealing with unrepresented claimants. The judge before whom Client N appeared without representation is not known for his patience, either with attorneys or unrepresented claimants.

Apparently, the judge did not find Client N’s paperwork to be in satisfactory order, and directed her to obtain legal representation for her disability claim. Client N came to me and we began to work up her file.

As I have written before, one of the most valuable tools available to a good Social Security Disability attorney is a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Questionnaire. These forms ask very specific questions, which if answered appropriately, can make a disability case fit more neatly into one of the categories for approval.

In the case of Client N, I submitted an RFC questionnaire to Client N’s family physician, and he very promptly completed and returned it to me. The problem: It was completed in the doctor’s own hand, and about a third of it was completely illegible.

Since it was a local doctor, I called his staff and explained the problem. They laughed in sympathy and after first trying to decipher the handwriting themselves, arranged an “after-hours” appointment for me to sit down with the doctor to go over his answers. This meeting also afforded me the opportunity to re-phrase the doctor’s answers to a couple of questions.

(These rewordings did not change the substance of the doctor’s answer, but clarified the context in which he intended them.)

Following my meeting with the doctor, my staff typed the responses so that they were clear. As a result, we were able to submit a clear, easily understandable RFC questionnaire and obtained a favorable disability decision.

The lessons to be learned:

1.You cannot overstate the importance of RFC questionnaires from treating physicians. They can literally make or break a case.

2. Do not submit something as important as an RFC questionnaire if it is illegible, if at all possible. If the physician has cooperated enough to complete it, then he probably will not mind deciphering and signing a “clean” version.

3. Sometimes, a face to face meeting between your Social Security Disability attorney and your doctor can be of major importance in the chances of your case being approved.

If you live in the Southeastern United States and have a Social Security Disability or SSI claim for which you need legal representation, please contact us for a free consultation regarding your case. Social Security Disability cases are handled on a contingency fee basis.

Samuel H. Jefcoat
Attorney at Law, LLC

How to contact if you need representation in South Carolina

1501 Main Street
Post Office Box 397
Newberry, South Carolina 29108

Phone: 803-321-2321
Fax: 803-321-3991

Web: www.SamJefcoat.Com

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