Your medical records are a vital part of your disability claim. Without them, you have nothing! I mean, NOTHING.
In part 1 of the 15 reasons people get denied disability, we talked about how 90% of cases are denied “just because… ” (well, they kinda hope you give up and go away)
Today we will talk about a very interesting reason people get denied.
I say interesting not because it’s interesting to see people getting denied. The reason I say interesting is because it is surprising how many people don’t know how important their medical records are when they are applying for disability.
I get calls every day from people wanting to apply and when I ask them what kind of treatment they are getting they say: “I haven’t seen a doctor in 3 years”! That means this person’s records are at least 3 years old! That’s a huge gap in treatment!
Now, here’s my question: If you are not treating, how do you know you are disabled?
What if your condition is treatable and the treatment can get you back to normal? And if it’s disabling, how do we know how disabling your condition is if you are not seeing a doctor?
I also get claimants whose doctors have given up or they said: “there’s not much we can do for you”. The claimant then gave up treatment because of those words and threw their hand in the air.
Doctors Are Wrong All The Time
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The good news is that science gets better all the time. There is always a treatment, there is always something that can be done to alleviate symptoms. Either coping mechanisms, therapy, etc.
For example, we are now learning that there is actually a cure for Hepatitis C. This was not available just a few years ago. How cool is that?!
Even in those situations where the doctor said “nothing can be done anymore“, claimants should still find some kind of treatment such as pain management, aqua therapy, some maintenance appointments at least.
And if your condition is one that there is really nothing you doctor can do for you other than maintaining it (pain management, therapy), you should get a letter from that doctor so he can explain to Social Security why there is nothing he can do for you.
What you can’t do is not see a doctor for a long period of time and expect that Social Security awards your case. Here is a big secret about that:
Social Security Sees No Treatment as Improvement
In other words, they think that if you are not going to the doctor your condition is “not that bad“! Simple as that!
Here’s another kicker:
Diagnosis alone will not win cases
The biggest mistake claimants make is thinking that just because they received a diagnosis they can win a disability claim. Wrong!
Diagnosis is only the beginning. People have heart attacks and go back to work. People have cancer and go back to work. These are very serious diagnoses but with the right treatment and time, a lot of people are able to go back to work.
And remember, some claimants may not be able to do the work they used to do but they may be able to do something else. We talk a little bit more about this in our post about canned denial letters.
That’s why medical records are so important. Once you receive a serious diagnosis, the next step is treatment: Treatment will generate more medical records. More medical records generate a big picture of how disabled you are.
What exactly are medical records?
I’m sure you know what they are, but sometimes I get people who don’t know the difference, so here it goes:
Medical records are doctor’s notes, reports from tests, lab results and anything that has to do with your medical treatment.
Every time you go to a doctor’s appointment your doctor usually takes notes of all his findings. He will also note your complaints during his examination. It is those notes that are so important. Every time you get a CT or an Xray, the clinic generates a report and a film. The notes and reports are what Social Security is looking for.
Medical Records versus Patient Instructions
Now sometimes, you go to a hospital and the hospital will give you these sheets containing information about your diagnosis. You also get a list of things you should or shouldn’t do after being discharged from the hospital. Those ARE NOT medical records.
They are called patient instructions.
They can be submitted with the records when you file your case. But they are not very useful for your claim. A lot of people get those two confused and a lot of claimants submit these as evidence of disability. Like I said before, they don’t help that much, if at all.
Gathering Medical Records
What I want you to do from now on is this: every time you go to the doctor or every so many months of visits, ask for a copy of your records.
In my State (Arizona), people are legally entitled to a copy of their medical records (please check your jurisdiction).
There is an exception for mental patients who are a danger to themselves or others. In these cases, doctor’s fear the person may harm herself if they see what the notes say. Doctors may only release them to a trusted family member and for a particular purpose (like hiring an attorney or a new doctor). Either way, you should ask for them.
The reason I’m suggesting that you ask for your records is simple: While Social Security will order medical records in the EARLY stages of your case, they will not share them with you or your attorney at that stage.
Most attorneys will ask to see your records BEFORE they decide if they will take your case. The reason is mostly because attorneys need to see if you are getting the right treatment and whether your records show that you are disabled before taking your case.
Without seeing these records, it is very difficult for an attorney to assess your chances at winning your claim.
The only time Social Security will share a copy of your medical records is when your case is on the hearing track
Even then, you will need to request those records before an attorney decides to represent you since they only release these records to the attorney of record (i.e. after the attorney decided to represent you).
- Medical Records are key for the success of your claim;
- Treatment is a generator of medical records;
- Social Security thinks if you are not seeing a doctor your condition is “not as bad” as you say;
- Ask your doctor for copies of your medical records to keep track of your treatment.
Please share this post with anyone you think could benefit from it.
In the next post, we will talk about how to order medical records and save money in the long run.
Until next time,