Proving Your Case

By Jennifer Scherf-Cook

Over and over I am asked why it is so hard to get on disability.  That is usually followed up with, “So and so down the street got on it and there is nothing wrong with him.”

Race, sex, marital status or the number of dependants you have are not considered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) despite what many people think.  The reason that it is so hard to get onto disability is because you must prove that you are disabled.  Many think SSA has to prove you are not disabled, but this is not how it works. When you go off work and the doctors are still trying to figure out what is wrong with you and whether or not you can return to work within one year, SSA doesn’t have the medical proof it requires because that proof doesn’t exist yet.

So and so down the street absolutely has medical evidence that shows they are unable to work.  SSA denials will often state that your condition is not as limiting as you stated.  Many people think this means they are being called a liar.  This is not it at all.  You must have the medical documents to support your complaints.  Having a diagnosis is not enough to be found disabled.  People can recover from almost every condition to a point where they can work in some capacity.  It is the severity of the symptoms, not the diagnosis, that you must prove to SSA.  If SSA took everyone’s word for how limited they were, everyone who applied would be on disability and the program would go bankrupt.

What to do:

  1. Go see a doctor and do what they ask.  If your doctor says to test your blood sugar twice a day, do so.  If you are referred to a rheumatologist or an orthopedic surgeon, keep the appointment. Take the medicines you are prescribed.  If your doctor tells you to follow a specific diet or stop smoking, do your best.  You cannot refuse to try and get better and expect to get onto disability.
  2. Develop the medical records.  Get the tests done, see your doctor regularly and make sure you let him or her know everything you are experiencing so their notes reflect it.
  3. Keep working at proving your condition and how severely it is impacting your ability to work.  An experienced attorney can help you get this information from your doctor(s) through questionnaires and forms and by advising you what you should discuss with your doctors.


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