To the outside world, digestive disorders carry with them the idea that it’s temporary. All you have to do is go to the bathroom and all is well.
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Unfortunately, for those who suffer from any chronic digestive disorders like Chrons disease, Inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Short Bowel Syndrome, the reality is quite different.
Sure, there may be good days in between but when inflammation, stress, and flare-ups hit, they are continuous and merciless. The person is stuck in the bathroom for long periods of time and has to frequently run to the bathroom in between those times.
These are particularly isolating conditions because the person is afraid to go out. Patients risk having no easy access to a bathroom or worse, accidents can happen which can be extra stressful due to the embarrassment.
So, if the outside world thinks all you have to do is go to the bathroom, how does a Social Security judge feel about this? And how does he evaluate your digestive impairments?
Proving you are disabled for digestive disorders
Since we are dealing with a condition that is different from a musculoskeletal issue that prevents you from lifting, sitting, standing etc, to win a claim we have to work with not only medical treatment records but also labs and some parts of your history. Please read my post about medical records to understand how important they are for your case.
In most cases, judges only pay attention to the “history” part of your medical records for, well, historical reasons.
They want to know when your medical issues started, how it started(if that information is available). They also want to know how much you weighed when it all started and now. And know about the frequency of these flare ups based on what you are telling the doctor.
The typical medical treatment for these impairments with some exceptions is medications. Now, the severe cases also include IV infusions. That means, your condition is so bad you are actually losing nutrients every time you are in crisis.
While doctors can give you medications to prevent the typical symptoms of abdominal pain and nausea, vomiting, a lot of these don’t actually do much to take away the worst symptoms. So when introducing evidence about your impairments, your medical records should demonstrate that you are losing weight, losing nutrients and that your condition is not controlled despite treatment.
Lab results are important in these digestive disorder cases because they are the “Gold Standard” in telling us if you are anemic, lack other nutrients like electrolytes among other important things your body needs for proper function.
These lab results will then be compared with a list of disorders (in this case Digestive Disorders) created by Social Security to assess your disability.
That list helps the judge to decide whether your condition “meets” or “equals” that list (more on that in a future post). If you do meet the listing, then you are more likely to see a win your case.
Other Methods to Increase Your Chances to Win Your Case For a Digestive Disorder
Your doctor will recognize a lot of the symptoms of your particular digestive disorder when he examines you. However, your doctor cannot be with you 24/7.
This means that he can’t tell how many times a day you go to the bathroom, or how long you stay there. He also can’t tell how long you have to stay in bed because of abdominal pain.
When you share that information with your doctor, he will write it down in the “history” part of your medical records. These are “self-reported” symptoms or information that you are sharing with your doctor when you go in for a visit.
But even if your reporting makes sense with the treatment you are receiving, a judge can always be suspicious about that information.
The main issue here is that as much as you describe to your doctor how you are feeling, it’s always going to be a summary of what goes on with you.
Your Words Are Your Best Friend
The best way to turn that “self-reported” information into a “bonafide” accounting of your day to day struggles is to start a diary of your day to day activities around your medical condition.
If you take that diary to your doctor, he will not only have a pretty good idea of what is going on with you, but he will also be able to “tweak” medications and change other aspects of your treatment based on that information.
And the bonus?
If your doctor incorporates that diary into your medical records, your diary along with your treatment can be used to prove how bad things are for you in court.
This can really work wonders with a judge because it’s so much more accurate than your “self-reporting” to your doctor. Makes sense?
So what should a Digestive Disorder diary contain?
The diary should start with the obvious, of course: the date. Then you should list the time you get up, what you did after you got up, how long, and how often you are in the bathroom, what you ate, what time you ate. Also, when you list what you ate include the usual foods and new ones. Finally, list any stresses that could have triggered a flare-up, including emotional, family troubles, etc.
You must do this every day so your doctor, and eventually the judge can get an idea of your daily struggles.
Over the weeks and months until the day of your hearing, you will have an excellent record of everything that was going on with you.
You may also benefit from it if you notice a pattern of flare-ups when eating certain foods. Or you can avoid certain situations if stress is contributing to the impairments.
Finally, if you try new treatments or diets, that diary will give you the “big picture” of the results of those treatments or diets.
Every time you go see your Gastroenterologist (yes, you want a specialist treating you!), take a copy of your diary so your doctor can add that to your medical file. It really does make a difference to have that diary as part of your treatment and consequently, your medical records.
Why is A Diary So Important To Evaluate Your Ability To Work?
Since most digestive disorders don’t officially prevent you from being able to sit or stand or walk around, they have to be evaluated differently than a musculoskeletal disorder for example.
Sure, it’s hard to sit down for long periods of time because of abdominal pain etc, but physically you can do it.
The main difficulty a person with a digestive disorder faces in a work setting is the inability to concentrate and focus on the job due to pain and the need to take constant bathroom breaks.
To prove a disability, you have to show that the number of bathroom breaks is so many that “no employer would put up with that”.
So while you would be “able to get a job” (physically you have no limitations – sit, stand, lift), you would be “unable to keep that job” because of the interruptions your medical condition causes.
Do you see now why your diary is so important?
The information in that diary will tell the judge accurately, how many times on average you have to go to the bathroom and how long you stay there. Combine that with your doctor’s notes and you have a much greater chance to win your claim.
How cool is that? And so simple to do!
I Have a Surprize for You
Sign up for my email list below and receive a pretty nifty diary form that you can use to fill out your daily information about your digestive disorder.
Simply print the pages and complete them every day. You can put them in a binder or folder so when you go to the doctor it’s all there for you and the doctor.
Courses by Realtactics4disabilityclaims
You just learned some tips and tricks on how to convince a judge you are disabled due to a digestive disorder. But do you know how to read your medical records to see if they are actually supporting your disability?
Learn how to read and how to improve your medical records like a pro with my new course “Medical Records Reading 101 for Disability Claimants”. Stop wasting time “hoping for the best” with your current records. The course also includes a Checklist and Worksheet so you can keep track of your treatment to make sure you don’t have any “gaps” that could jeopardize your claim. Take a quick “free sneak peek” before you purchase the course and learn the ins and outs of improving your medical records with actionable instructions from Yours Truly (Yes, Me!).
If you were denied disability and you are looking to appeal with “better” evidence, I created a course about using a Residual Functional Capacity Report to add to your medical records. This is a form you can take to your doctor to complete in support of your claim. The course includes forms for physical or mental impairments and instructions on how to ask your doctor to complete them. You can take a “free sneak peek” to see if this course is for you. Click on the image below and you will be directed to the course page:
Also, if you are looking to file for disability and don’t know where to start, I created a course called the “5 Day File your Disability Claim” Guide where I teach you every step you should take to file your claim.
Simply click on the image below and it will take you directly to the course page. Take a “free sneak peek” of the first lesson to see if this course is for you.
You know the blog, now you can take one step further and learn the process of preparing and filing your claim.
Until next time,