1) If your treating physician says that you are disabled you will be granted disability benefits.
The truth is that a short letter from your doctor stating that you are diagnosed with a
disease or ailment will not go very far with Social Security. Social Security is not very
interested if your doctor thinks you are disabled. However, they are interested if your
doctor has done a detailed report of your condition, treatment and impact on your daily life. A well-written report by your treating physician will go a long way to having your disability application approved, but it will not guarantee that you will receive benefits. For your doctor's opinion to carry more weight their correspondence with Social Security needs to be as detailed as possible, chronicling your treatment over time, and how your condition has impacted your work and life. You should ask your doctor to draft a medical source statement. This will detail tests, x-rays and treatments. It will also explain how your condition has physical limitations on daily task. This report will be extremely helpful at the hearing stages. The medical source statement will fill in the gaps of your testimony and add creditability to your claim when you are before the Administrative Law Judge.
2) Social Security denies everyone in the first round.
Social Security approves about 30% of applications in the first round. These tend to be for
people who are more than 55 years old or who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening
disease that is one of the “listings” used by Social Security. If you are a younger worker or
if you do not meet a listing, you will most likely be denied in the first round of approval.
This is not the time to be discouraged. You do not want to abandon your application after
it is denied. If you are denied and file a new application, it will most likely be denied as
well. If you are denied, you should seek reconsideration of your application and proceed to
the hearing stage. It is at the hearing stage that you have the highest likelihood of
approval. That is the time that you will appear before an Administrative Law Judge. This is
the first time that you are interacting with the person who is handling your file. At the
hearing, the judge is able to speak with the applicant; this humanizes the applicant far
more than their paper file.
3) If I go to the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge and explain my disability they will grant me disability.
Your word alone will not be enough for Social Security to grant you benefits. You will need
to show to Social Security that you are treating all of your physical and mental conditions.
You will also need to have your treating doctor provide detailed information to Social
Security about your condition and how your conditions limit you at work. If you are seeing
more than one doctor due to multiple issues you should have a report from each of your
doctors. Social Security can grant you disability benefits for a combination of conditions
that theyacknowledge prevent you from working even if any one of the conditions on its
own would not be severe enough for you to qualify for disability.
4) If I am not receiving medical treatment Social Security will pay to have me examined.
It is true that Social Security quite frequently sends applicants to a “consultative
examination.” Recently due to budget constraints Social Security has been limiting the
amount of consultative examinations they have been ordering. This means that you may
have trouble proving that you are disabled due to lack of medical evidence. Also some
consultative examinations may not be in-depth enough to fully develop the extent of your
disability. These are doctors that you meet with once, and they are not able chart your
degeneration over time due to your condition. You are far better off to continue treating. If
you have been treating for an extended time and you are not improving this will illustrate to
Social Security that you are unlikely to improve in the near future (Social Security only
grants benefits for life-threatening conditions or those that are likely to persist for 12
months or more). Additionally, your treating physician can often times be your best
advocate because they have the unique combination of medical training and first hand
knowledge of your condition for an extended period of time.