You may be wondering: how can a joke hurt my disability claim? Is this a joke?
Unfortunately, this is not a joke. The reality is:
What You Say To Your Doctor Can And Will Be Used Against You
If you read my previous post about Social Media you will remember my warning that anything you say/post can and will be used against you. Well, the same is true about what you say to your doctor. I already hear you saying: “But I thought what I say to my doctor is confidential!“
Well, it is and it isn’t.
What you tell your doctor is confidential to everyone UNLESS you filed for a Disability claim. And while it is still confidential to the rest of the world, it’s NOT confidential to the disability “decision makers”. The decision makers being the Social Security office employee handling your case or the LTD insurance adjuster.
The reason they are able to see everything in your medical record is pretty obvious: If you file a disability claim, you will need to provide medical records to support that claim.
You cannot withhold information or select the records you are going to send. Now, why am I telling you all of this?
Because I have seen claims that were completely hurt by what the claimant told the doctor during a consult. And, I don’t want that to happen to you.
Here are some examples of claims that were hurt by a claimant’s words and what not to do:
- Claimant had a broken neck and was joking with the doctor that he was going downhill skiing.
Most people would probably understand that this claimant was joking. However, a lot of doctors are so in a hurry during a consult that they don’t always pay attention to what is being said. In this case, the doctor wrote in the notes that he didn’t recommend that the claimant engaged in such activities.
It’s obvious that the patient wasn’t going downhill skiing but this doctor just didn’t get that it was a joke. Because the doctor wrote that the patient shouldn’t be skiing, he made it look like the patient was serious about this activity. And if a decision maker sees this note he will think that this is serious and that the patient was really planning to do this.
The reason I’m telling you this is because it took us a lot of work to fix this note. In fact, it took us 4 years to undo this mess! Just because of that “minor” joke.
Please, always make sure you have your doctor’s undivided attention before making comments like that. Ideally, avoid small talk. Or better yet, don’t volunteer things he didn’t ask or that are irrelevant to your medical condition.
And if you must crack that joke, then make sure that that the doctor understands you are kidding! It seems pretty silly but sometimes they just don’t get it.
2. Claimant with a bad back told his doctor his back hurt after helping the church with a rummage sale all weekend. First, I know church is important. I get that. But if you have a physical impairment, I’m pretty sure your church leader will understand if you cannot do certain activities.
And if you REALLY want to help the church, maybe don’t over do it. If you really must do this, maybe no more than a couple of hours.
A lot of claimants get involved in these activities and then end up in their doctor’s offices complaining of severe pain after these activities. Then you see the doctor writing in the medical notes that the cause of the pain was “the rummage sale all weekend long“.
Do you think a judge will be happy to pay you disability benefits knowing that you are doing these activities? No!
He’s gonna think your disability is not “that bad” or you would not be doing these activities.
Lesson 1: don’t do activities a person in your condition should not do.
Lesson 2, If you do, be very careful what you say: it can come back to “bite” you.
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3. Claimant with bad back drove across the country for a vacation and complained to the doctor about the pain and how it happened. The decision maker sees this and thinks “Well, here I am working my butt off and this claimant goes on vacation? Why should I pay him disability benefits, so he can vacation on taxpayer money?“
And here’s my personal favorite: “If the claimant is driving cross country with an alleged bad back it must not be so bad!“
Result: CLAIM DENIED!!!
I know you must be saying: “Someone else drove all the way” or “we stopped all the time for me to stretch“. Or, “I was lying in the back seat” or, “a relative died and I had no choice!“.
I understand that the fact you are disabled doesn’t mean you should stop living, or going to a funeral across the country. Just watch what you say to your doctor, please!
Here’s another gem:
4. The claimant who told his doctor that he went on a Mediterranean cruise for a month. Yet another example of a doctor’s note that almost cost the claim!
Based on the claimant’s condition I’m pretty certain the claimant was in his cabin most of the time. And if you’ve ever been on a cruise you know that most of the time you just eat and sit by the pool doing nothing. Pretty mellow activities, no?
But it’s not what the decision maker sees. What he sees is that he’s stuck in an office while you are cruising in the Mediterranean. It doesn’t matter how much pain you endured during that trip. Or how little you did during that trip. A vacation is a vacation and it will always look bad in a disability claim. Especially, a vacation overseas.
The reality is, your doctor doesn’t need to know that you are going or went on a vacation. And if you are trying to arrange for extra prescription for the time you will be out maybe you don’t need to be telling him how far that trip is.
I’m not telling you to lie. And I know I sound like a broken record
But you should watch your words because they can really hurt your claim!
When talking to your doctor think of the following: “Is this information relevant to my medical condition?“
Let’s revisit the case about the broken neck and downhill skiing above: Is the joke about skiing relevant to the doctor? The answer is no. That joke will not change or improve your chances that the doctor will have a better treatment for you. It’s irrelevant!
How about the person helping the church? The answer is still no. You may be thinking, “but I should tell my doctor what caused all the pain (at church helping all day)” “how is he going to give me medication if I don’t tell him what happened?
Well, in an ideal world, yes: You should tell your doctor what happened.
But you also applied for disability. You want the court to feel sympathetic about your plight and yet you did something you should not be doing with a bad back!
Here’s what you should do before engaging in certain activities: Think of your parents or someone with a position of authority over you and imagine them saying: “why are you doing this activity when you know you are not supposed to!” If you can hear them saying that in your head, then don’t do that activity! And second, careful what you tell your doctor! “Does the doctor REALLY need to know this?
And finally, how does this activity look on paper? Is this bound to make me look bad for the judge? If the answer is yes, please measure your words.
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Until next time,