How to Improve Your Chances of Winning Your Disability Claim

How to Improve Your Chances of Winning Your Disability Claim

After you apply for disability benefits, or file your appeal of a denial of benefits, what are the best ways to improve your chances of winning? Often, success in a disability application or appeal stems from the quality of the medical records from your treating physicians. Here are ten tips on how you, as the patient, can help your doctors to provide documentation of your medical problems in a way that will show SSA your disabling impairments.

  1. Be a compliant patient. Do everything that you can to follow your doctor’s recommendations. The support of your doctors is invaluable during the disability application and appeals process. So make sure they are on your side by being a good patient and following their orders.
  2. Don’t miss your medical appointments. Don’t miss your medical appointments, and show up at the appointed times. Your doctors can’t evaluate your medical condition unless you attend scheduled appointments, tests, evaluations or other procedures.
  3. Doctors' notes are part of your SSA file. Be aware that your doctor will write down everything you discuss with him or her. These notes become part of your medical file that will be reviewed by the Social Security Administration in evaluating whether to award you benefits. As an example, if you mention to your doctor that you are taking a trip, be sure to also explain its purpose. Travel to assist with a family emergency leaves a different impression than travel to an exotic location for a vacation.
  4. Your social media is public information. Social media websites, by definition, are not confidential. Every message or photo you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. can be seen by the public. Social Security Administration officials may review your social media websites to test the veracity of your claim of disability.
  5. Tell your doctor how you feel. Avoid the social nicety of telling your treating physicians that you feel “fine” when in fact you do not. Be frank and truthful about your abilities and limitations with doctors and other professionals evaluating your disability. Again, your doctors are recording what you tell them and if you are trying to be polite by glossing over your level of pain or physical limitations, this will create an inaccurate record of your actual disabling conditions.
  6. Stay clean and sober. If your disability is found to have been caused or exacerbated by the use of alcohol and/or drugs, it may result in a denial of benefits. If you have a history of significant drug or alcohol use, be sure to share your current efforts to reduce or eliminate drug/alcohol use with your treating doctor.
  7. Make a list of issues before appointments. If you have trouble remembering to bring up issues with your doctor, write a list of things that concern you with the most important at the top, and bring it with you to your appointment.
  8. Disclose medication side-effects. Tell your doctor about any side effects that you have with your medications. Don’t just stop or change the dosage of any prescription without having a conversation with your provider first.
  9. Update your medication list. Keep with you, at all times, an updated list of medications and the dosage. It is also important to write down the names of the physicians who have prescribed each medication and the reason why it was prescribed.
  10. Create a list of your medical specialists. Maintain a list with the name and contact information of any specialist doctors that you have been referred to in the past, to evaluate your condition or discuss treatment options. Often, an examining doctor may ask whether you have been evaluated by a specific type of clinician or have recent tests and scans, and it can be extremely helpful to have this information on hand. You want to make sure that any new doctors (examining or treating physicians) can get up to date on your condition and treatment history during the time they spend with you at the time of your scheduled meetings as sometimes this information can be missing from your files, or can be incomplete.