Doctors play a pivotal role in the social security disability process. Their contributions of expertise and documentation provide insight to an applicant’s mental and/or physical condition, and this insight may prove useful when a social security adjudicator is reviewing a claimant’s file. In essence, what a doctor’s contributions to a claimant’s disability file can influence the ultimate decision made by the Social Security Administrative Law Judge. For this reason, it is often said that medical records and documentation are the backbone of a successful disability claim, but in this post we look beyond that to discuss the logic of why a doctor’s opinions are so important.
Imagine you have a condition like migraine headaches, and you are trying to win disability benefits. Well, in this case, it may be difficult to prove something like migraines can prevent you from working. This is where the doctor comes in to save the day. If you are able to see some kind of migraine specialist or neurologist whose office notes from your visits illustrate the severity of your migraines, you are that much closer to winning your disability claim. This is why it is always recommended that you seek the services of a doctor who specializes in your condition, whatever that condition may be. A specialist’s notes may be seen by the SSA as even more credible and as stronger evidence backing up your claim.
Cardiologists, rheumatologists, neurologists and orthopedic surgeons are examples of those physicians who specialize in certain areas of medicine, and such specialty doctors should definitely be consulted with over the course of your claim. They can provide certain testing, are knowledgeable of certain procedures, and have the right skills to render a better diagnosis of your condition and judgment of how it impacts your ability to work. Having that firm diagnosis of a condition and backup from a doctor can prove so valuable in your case.
Another reason doctors play an important role in disability claims is probably because of the strict standards doctors operate under today. I read an interesting article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, dated April 7, 2010, which is titled Doctors face board specialty ‘expiration dates’ and which discusses just how strict the standards are today for practicing doctors. The article states that prior to the 1990s, doctors who had received specialized training in certain areas were only required to obtain certification ONCE. There were no additional requirements for retesting. In essence, once a doctor was certified, he or she was certified for the duration of his or her practice. Now, however, doctors constantly face the requirement of having to take tests and participate in continuing education to renew their board certification.
This seems like good news for the disability claimant, not just because doctors are held to higher standards, but because the work and opinions of doctors are highly regarded by the SSA. Social Security Judges certainly seem to put a premium on quality medical records. But aside from that, just knowing our doctors’ skills are up to date is a reassuring factor.
To sum up, doctor support is very important in a disability claim, and this is especially the case when it comes to board-certified specialists. Their diagnoses and treatment plans not only can speed up a disability process, but also can assist in winning one as well.