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Disabling Traumatic Brain Injuries Can Arise from a Single Concussion

Concussions have been in the news lately because stories about retired football players who are fighting cognitive loss, memory issues and severe depression that arises from brain injury. Athletes like football players and boxers often experience multiple concussions over many years, but damage to the brain can occur even after a single concussion.

Not All Head Injuries Carry the Same Significance

Scientists who study concussions and their aftermath have determined that not all head injuries are the same.  Medical researchers in Europe studying brain injury in unhelmeted soccer players report that It turns out that a head trauma from an angular blow causes significantly more damage than a straight on blow to the head.  It turns out that an angular blow causes twisting of the brain stem and more tearing of delicate nerve fibers.   [1. Click here to review the abstract to a report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine entitled “Brain loading in concussive head impacts: implications for injury prevention.”] Continue reading →

The importance of doctor support in a disability claim (and why this is the case)

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.

Q & A: What medical sources are considered acceptable by the SSA?

Hello and welcome to the 7th installment of my Q & A series, which is designed to cover some of the more elusive topics associated with the Social Security Disability claims process. In this post, I discuss what types of medical providers are deemed as “acceptable medical sources” by the Social Security Administration.


I recently applied for SSDI, and I want to make sure that the medical records I am providing to the SSA are from “acceptable medical sources.” Can you explain in detail what the SSA views as an acceptable medical source?

My answer:

The SSA considers an “acceptable medical source” to be any licensed physician (this includes D.O.s – Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine), licensed or certified psychologists, licensed optometrists, hospitals, clinics, and other health facilities where a claimant has been treated.

Remember, as has been previously mentioned on this blog, claimants are highly encouraged to see a physician/specialist who focuses primarily on their specific impairment. In a previous post about the importance of seeking specialized medical treatment,  for example, an individual suffering from migraine headaches and blurred vision was advised to see a headache specialist or neurologist who could substantiate their claim.

While general physicians are very knowledgeable and skilled (and are deemed to be an appropriate medical source by the SSA), I typically encourage my clients to try and see a specialist whose practice concentrates primarily on their particular impairment. These specialists will have the proper credentials, testing methods, and treatment plans for you, and your seeking their help will only serve to make your claim more credible in the eyes of the SSA.

I would like to address one last question I sometimes get from people suffering from a physical impairment like back  or neck pain. Many such claimants will see a chiropractor instead of, say, a spine specialist. Not to take away from the benefits chiropractors provide, but in my experience chiropractic records are not nearly as useful in a disability claim as compared to records from orthopedic and spine specialists or even those of D.O.s. If you are seeing a chiropractor, my best advice is to also seek a diagnosis or opinion from another type of medical source, so that you will be satisfying the SSA’s “acceptable medical source” requirements.

Q & A: What is the Definition of “Medically Determinable”?

Hello and welcome to the 3rd installment of my Q & A series, which is designed to cover some of the more elusive topics associated with the Social Security Disability claims process. In this post, I will discuss the term “medically determinable,” another one of those unique Social Security terms that people often have questions about.


I understand that in order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, my condition must be a medically determinable physical or mental impairment.  Can you explain exactly what a medically determinable physical or mental impairment is?

My answer:

The terminology or “lingo” used by the Social Security Administration is often confusing.  A medically determinable physical or mental impairment is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological or psychological abnormalities which can be determined by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.  In essence, a physical or mental impairment must be substantiated by medical evidence consisting or signs, symptoms and laboratory findings.   An applicant’s statement of symptoms alone is not enough to meet the requirements of a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment.”  In a nutshell: There must be medical evidence that substantiates the symptoms experienced.  For example, if you are experiencing debilitating migraine headaches, you need to have medical tests done in order to establish the root cause of the headaches.  Your saying alone that you have migraine headaches is not enough.

I cannot over emphasize the need for specialized medical and mental relatedMRI evidence test(s) in determining an individual’s impairment.  Although general physicians are skilled doctors and deserve all the accolades available, Social Security Disability applicants must seek, in addition to the opinions of a general physician, the opinions/diagnoses of specialists when making application for disability.  These specialized opinions are critical in order for an applicant to be awarded disability. Let’s quickly take the above example of someone suffering from debilitating migraine headaches. In their case, it would be wise to seek the opinion of a headache specialist or neurologist while pursuing their claim. On my migraine headaches and disability website, I posted an entire article about the benefit of seeking specialized treatment while pursuing a disability claim, which can be accessed by clicking on the link.

I understand that most applicants are unable to shoulder the costs of seeing a specialist and that most government-assisted programs do not cover these types of costs.  I encourage applicants to solicit the financial help of family members as well as explore other available means so that they are able to see a physician specializing in their medical condition.