Social Workers, therapists and physicians practice their disciplines hoping to successfully diagnose and treat people with illnesses. Contrary to those goals, however, the Social Security law requires patients and their providers to prove that their patients are not doing well.
The proof in Social Security and SSI disability claims begins with the objective medical findings in the treating physician’s office chart. Office notes are often given more evidentiary weight than narrative reports because they are made at the time of the visit and are seen as more reliable.
Documentation is Essential
For Social Security and SSI disability claims, the focus is on the ability to function, not simply on diagnosis. In this process, a treating physician’s simple statement that someone is “disabled” is meaningless without the documented clinical signs, symptoms, findings and medical opinions to support that conclusion.
For patients, the need for financial assistance through Social Security thrusts legal and insurance issues into the doctor’s examination rooms. It asks that the doctor-patient relationship conform to bureaucratic demands for this task. Doctors would rather be focused on signs that their treatment plan is providing relief, rather than proving disability and failure of treatment.
Many treating providers “chart for strength,” documenting each small improvement. This can be devastating to a Social Security claim if the chart does not also document continuing limitations. Unfortunately, this forces both the treating provider and the patient to focus on the negative aspects of the illness.
If the claimant cannot work then the doctor needs to document that opinion. If the doctor feels the patient can work, or is malingering, this must be explained to the patient so that the focus can switch to treatment and the return to work.
Benefits Help Patients Financially
Eliminating financial stress by obtaining benefits can often allow patients to redirect their energies to recovery. Anxiety about bills and finances can sometimes exacerbate illnesses.
These benefit programs provide minimal cash assistance and more importantly, access to the health care system through Medicare and Medicaid. This continued medical care may provide opportunity for recovery and eventual return to work.
Free Seminar for your Group or Office
Matt Grundy’s workshops on the Social Security disability program have been widely praised. Making the law simple and clear, entertaining while informative, our in-service trainings will enhance staff’s ability to help their clients, and help community groups understand the mysteries of the Social Security process. Matt will conduct a free seminar at your location on how to help clients win Social Security disability cases. If you are a social worker and need to complete continuing education credits, we could assist you in obtaining those credits with a customized seminar. Call our office to make arrangements.
Disability Evaluation Under Social Security (also known as the Blue Book), has been specially prepared to provide physicians and other health professionals with an understanding of the disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration. It explains how each program works, and the kinds of information a health professional can furnish to help ensure sound and prompt decisions on disability claims.