Disability Denied: Was Anything on Your Application Harmful to Your Claim?

A lack of good medical evidence can be harmful to a Social Security disability claim.

If you've been denied on your disability claim, consider what you may have done—or didn't do—that led to the denial. In most cases, it's not that you wrote something on your application that hurt your chances, it's that there wasn't enough convincing information in your medical records to lead to an approval.

Was All of Your Medical Treatment Documented?

On the application for disability, did you indicate all known sources of medical treatment, including the addresses of medical providers (hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices), the names of physicians providing treatment, and the dates of treatment? This type of medical information about your disability is extremely important. Yet despite this, a very large percentage of SSI and SSDI applicants fail to provide complete and accurate treatment information on their applications.

A claimant (applicant) who has been denied disability and is about to file an appeal should be especially detailed when it comes to indicating treatment sources (doctors, clinics, and hospitals) on the appeal forms. It's not a bad idea to send in a complete list of all the doctors and hospitals you've ever obtained treatment from even if you did so with the initial application. How far back should this list go? At least as far back as the time you estimate that your disability began, because that's how far back a disability examiner will be looking. Disability examiners do try to be conscientious when it comes to gathering your records, but it is not unheard of for them to miss a treatment source.

Was There Enough Good Medical Evidence?

Another aspect that you should consider is the quality of your medical records. By quality, I mean how substantial and/or detailed a claimant's records are. While the quality of the medical reporting falls entirely within the purview of one's personal physician (in other words, a patient will have little, if any, influence, over what a doctor writes), you can mediate the quality of your medical records by maintaining regular visits to a doctor and communicating to your doctor the functional limitations caused by your illness. For example, patients with a severe back condition should point out to their physician their inability to sit or stand for prolonged periods or their inability to perform certain tasks. Provided that the doctor records such complaints into his or her treatment notes, this patient-provided information will then become part of the "medical record documentation" that Social Security puts in your file. You can also ask your doctor to to fill out a "residual functional capacity" (RFC) form.

Were There "Bad Facts" on Your Application?

Some disability lawyers refer to evidence in your file that can hurt your case as "bad facts." For instance, if your application or medical records show that you abuse drugs or alcohol, or that you've worked a significant amount since your disability began, this can keep you from getting benefits. Other examples of bad facts include test results that show you don't meet the requirements of a disability listing, a notation on a doctor's report that you may be exaggerating your symptoms, or evidence that you are doing more on a daily basis than you claimed on your application. If you think you were denied because of unhelpful statements on your application or medical records, contact a disability lawyer to handle the bad facts. A lawyer will be able to help you explain these issues on appeal.

By: Tim Moore, former Social Security disability claims examiner

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