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Social Security Disability:How Important is Musculoskeletal Documentation?

Published on October 1, 2014 by

By now we’ve covered what musculoskeletal disorders are, defined “loss of function,” gone over tests and procedures, and discussed the spinal exam. Documentation has come up from time to time, but we haven’t really gotten into the nuts and bolts of why it’s needed or what happens if you aren’t receiving ongoing treatment.

Below you’ll find answers to those questions and more.

Why It’s Important to Have a Record (and What That Means)

The most basic reason why you should keep an official, medical record is that it acts as a form of proof for your disability, treatment, and need for benefits. When you have such documentation out there, it has to be considered by the SSA if you apply for benefits, and that can mean the difference between winning your claim and having it denied.

There’s a more specific reason for this record, though, in terms of how it acts as proof: the documentation acts as a timeline or “longitudinal clinical record” that not only details how long you’ve been dealing with the problem and what kind of treatment you’ve sought out, but also how bad the problem is and whether it has improved or gotten worse over time.

Since most musculoskeletal issues do tend to get better as time passes or improve with medical treatment, the SSA pays a lot of attention to these findings. If you’ve sought out all kinds of help and can show that nothing seems to be working, you’ve got a pretty good case and should receive benefits for the problem.

What If You Don’t Have a Record?

While many with ongoing musculoskeletal disabilities receive treatment for their problems for months or even years before applying for disability, this isn’t true for everyone. Maybe they were trying to tough it out despite the difficulties it caused them. Or they’re afraid of doctors. Or simply didn’t have the money to continually pay for treatment. Whatever the reason, there are those out there who don’t have a record of seeking help but still suffer from a disability.

If you think you fall into this camp, don’t despair. You can still apply for disability and the SSA will make a determination not just on the current medical evidence that they can obtain, but also the symptoms from which you suffer, your work experience, age, and RFC (residual functional capacity).

Thinking about applying now? Our Social Security Disability ebook describes the process from start to finish. If you still have questions after you read it, contact us any time, day or night.

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Housework is Not Proof You Can Work According to Long Term Disability Laws

Published on September 26, 2014 by

Insurance companies will try to deny your claim in any way that they can. One of the most frustrating that we’ve dealt with is when insurers say that people aren’t eligible for disability benefits because they can still do things at home such as washing clothes, running the vacuum, and preparing food.

Basically, their argument is that the simple ability to take care of yourself proves that you can work and therefore means they don’t have to give you benefits. If your claim is denied for this reason, don’t give up so quickly. Whatever they may say in their documentation to you, housework doesn’t equate to the ability to perform a full-time job, and you need to fight back.

Courts Overrule Insurers Who Say Housework Prevents Disability Eligibility

Insurers who attempt to use your ability to perform housework as a basis to deny benefits typically base their decision on information you provide them. It might be a form asking about your activities of daily living, or it could be an interviewer who comes to your house to talk to you and observe your behavior. If they see you doing things like folding laundry or cooking, they may try to use those activities against you.

When people have fought back, though, the courts continue to side with them and against insurers. Why? One court stated that people doing household chores can far more easily take breaks when they feel sick or tired than someone at a full-time job. Another said that these kinds of activities just aren’t “transferable to… the more grueling environment of the workplace.” Overall, what it boils down to is that courts have repeatedly said that disabled people shouldn’t be “penalized” for trying to live normally and that the ability to perform simple housework just doesn’t work as a reason to deny benefits.

Disability Laws and Rulings Don’t Stop Insurers from Trying

Of course, just because insurers know that courts are going to overrule them hasn’t stopped them from continuing to try the tactic. They do it because they know that a significant number of people will simply give up after they get a denial letter. Don’t let that be you, though. If you know that you deserve benefits, work with a disability attorney that you trust and keep fighting for your rights.

Want the latest long term disability info and tips on winning your claim? Follow our disability blog and be sure to download a copy of our free e-book!

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Social Security Disability: The Spinal Exam

Published on September 24, 2014 by

In my previous post, I have talked about a number of tests and procedures you’ll need to undergo to prove to Social Security that you’re suffering from a musculoskeletal disorder, as well as defining “loss of function.” But if the impairment you’re dealing with involves your spine, there are a number of very specific things that you’re going to have to do in order to be accepted for disability by the SSA.

What You Need in a Spinal Exam

The first and most important thing to note before getting a spinal exam from the doctor is that you had better choose someone that the SSA deems an “acceptable medical source.” Orthopedic surgeons, osteopathic doctors, and other medical doctors qualify, for example, but generally chiropractors do not. In spite of recent rules to contrary, people who have their chiropractors filling out the SSA’s form quickly discover that the agency gives them little credibility and won’t help them get the benefits they need.

Once you have a doctor that the SSA will pay attention to, here’s what to expect in the examination:

  • A thorough description of your gait
  • Quantitative range of motion written in degrees
  • Mentions of signs of tension, muscle spasms, motor abnormalities, deep tendon reflexes, sensory abnormalities
  • Written observations about how you get up and down
  • Tests to see if you can walk on your heels or toes

If your muscles have become atrophied, the doctor will need to measure the circumference of your lower legs and thighs (or upper and lower arms) and use inches or centimeters. Additionally, they have to measure your strength in these limbs using a scale from 0 to 5 and include specific descriptions.

Neurological Problems May Persist – and Not Be Helped

One of the more frustrating things about spinal issues is that the SSA’s definition only covers the physical damage, but quite often even after the physical problems are fixed, neurological ones linger. If this is the situation you find yourself in, you may have a difficult time getting help from SSA. Talk to an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Marc Whitehead to see if your issue qualifies as a serious neurological impairment and can be evaluated with different criteria.

Our next blog post will go in-depth on the documentation you need for musculoskeletal disorders. Have more Social Security questions that you want answered now? Download our free eBook on SSD benefits.

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Long Term Disability: Don’t Ignore Severe Headaches

Published on September 19, 2014 by

Everyone gets a headache now and then. For most of us, they mean little more than taking aspirin and waiting for the annoyance to go away. But for an unfortunate few, that’s not what happens.

These are people who suffer from regular headaches which often are so strong that they can’t work while they’re dealing with them. Bright lights, loud sounds, and other triggers can set off a wave of extreme, debilitating pain. But even with these kinds of symptoms, many people struggling with severe headaches simply soldier on because our society says that headaches aren’t a big deal.

If this sounds like what you’re going through, don’t ignore it – talk to a doctor to figure out what’s going on. And if you really can’t work because of what you’re going through, talk to an experienced disability attorney to see if you qualify for benefits.

Treatment for Severe Headaches

Just like chronic pain, severe headaches aren’t associated with any one specific disability. This makes it harder to get disability benefits if headaches are the main symptom you can point to, but there are ways that you can help your cause.

The most important thing to do is work with your doctor to try to figure out what’s causing them. You may end up needing to take a CT scan, see a neurologist, or even look into potential environmental factors to discover the cause.

When working with your doctor, you should be as specific as possible about the issues you experience with your headaches. What does the pain feel like? Where is it located? Do you feel nauseous or vomit when you get a headache? Are you sensitive to noises or light?

Depending on your specific situation, your treatment may involve a variety of things. Some doctors end up recommending prescription medications. Others seek out trigger sources to remove. And still others may opt for injections. There are even patients who end up requiring treatment from emergency facilities.

Severe Headaches and Disability Benefits

Whatever you do to seek help, make sure that you maintain a record. All of those visits to your doctor and the emergency room will go a long way towards proving you need help if you decide to apply for medical disability benefits. You should even keep your own records by writing a headache diary that details the frequency, severity, and duration of your headaches. This diary can be written out by hand, typed, or even logged into one of a variety of apps that have been popping up in recent years. The important thing isn’t how you do it, but that you do it.

Make sure that your doctor sees this diary frequently so that the information is entered into official records. The more “proof” you have and the more detailed you are, the easier it will be for you to explain why your headaches keep you from doing your job, and the less likely it is that you will have a claim denied.

Want the latest long term disability info and tips on winning your claim? Follow our disability blog and be sure to download a copy of our free e-book!

 

 

 

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