I don’t know about you, but when someone I know says to me, ‘How are you?’ I just about always say, ‘Fine. How are you?’ even though it may not be true. I may have a headache. So why would I say I’m fine when I’m not? I suspect most people respond in this way, even when they are not feeling well. I think it’s just human nature.
Same thing happens to me when I go to the doctor’s office. Obviously I’m there because something’s wrong with me. But what do I say when I’m asked, ‘So how are you today?’ Well, if I’m applying for disability benefits and need my doctor’s help to document my symptoms, I’m sure not going to say, ‘Fine.’
Yet so many people do. I cannot stress enough how important it is to put aside that natural tendency to minimize your medical problems when you visit your doctor.
Your medical history is a critical component to your Social Security disability claim. If you can’t prove to SSA how your disability impacts your daily life, especially your ability to work, it will be very hard to convince SSA that you deserve to receive disability benefits.
But something happens to people when they visit their doctor. Of course, they should be compliant to what the doctor tells them to do to safeguard their health. But, if someone, for example, has severe heart disease, has had three heart attacks, is told he or she must live a sedentary life to avoid chest pain and another attack, and then tells the doctor, “I’m doing fine now,” the doctor could document on the patient’s medical record that there are no further problems. Where’s the written proof that this person is unable to perform work tasks? How will SSA know that this person must not engage in work-related sustained activities and really can’t perform at any job?
In this hypothetical case, the doctor’s documentation could come out all wrong, especially if the patient minimizes symptoms and acts as if everything is fine, when it’s not.
It would be better for the patient to answer, “I’m avoiding all activities, as you told me to do, and I’m not having any pain.” The doctor would more than likely document that exerting activities leads to chest pain, and, therefore, the patient cannot perform work. That would be good evidence to support the patient’s disability case.
How you interact with your doctors is extremely important if you want to make sure that your medical story is accurate and proves your disability. Here are some tips for you:
- Always remind your doctor that you are applying for disability benefits.
- Don’t minimize your symptoms to your doctor. Don’t exaggerate your symptoms either. State the facts.
- Don’t avoid discussing embarrassing details about your symptoms. Your doctor needs to get the full picture about how your life is affected by your condition.
- Ask your doctor and/or the office manager if you can have access to your medical records right away.
- Or, tell the doctor and/or office manager to expect that SSA will request your medical records and ask them if they can send them to SSA in a timely manner.
- Make notes about your condition between office visits so that you can remember what to tell your doctor during your office appointment
- If you go to a doctor who is unfamiliar with you, make sure he or she knows everything about how your condition impacts your daily life
It’s human nature to want to “put our best foot forward” when we interact with people. But when you’re behind closed doors with your doctor, this is not the time to be modest. This is your health we’re talking about. You want to make sure that your doctor(s) are with you in helping you get the disability benefits you need to live your life.