The reason we often stress to our clients in a Social Security Disability case the importance of medical treatment is because medical treatment offers proven documentation of disability. In order to get benefits, clients must provide medical evidence of an impairment that is severe enough to prevent them from working.
How Does the Law Define Disability?
The law defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
A medically determinable physical or mental impairment is an impairment that results from “anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities, which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. The medical evidence must establish a physical or mental impairment consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings – not only by the individual’s statement of symptoms.” This means that just because you tell someone what hurts or what problems you have is not enough – you need to show medical proof.
Medical Documentation Offers Proof
Medical treatment and the treating doctor’s documentation of that treatment are essential in a Social Security Disability case. It is the cornerstone of the process. When you apply for Social Security Disability, you are required to provide medical evidence of a severe physical or psychological impairment that affects your ability to work. Each impairment must be documented and evaluated separately. If you do not have medical evidence (in other words, if you don’t go to the doctor), there is essentially no proof that you have a disabling impairment.
And it’s not enough if you were diagnosed with something years ago and the doctor told you there was “nothing that could be done to cure you.” If you have an ongoing condition, your medical treatment must be ongoing too. Otherwise, there’s no medical evidence supporting that you continue to be disabled. Ongoing medical records documenting that you are treating your condition under a doctor’s care helps fortify your disability claim.
Even if you do not have medical insurance or money to pay for care, you must seek medical treatment. Some options to consider are to try to obtain charity care at your local hospital or medical provider. Many communities also have free or low-cost options available for medical treatment. For health care resources in your community click here.
North Carolina Social Security Disability Attorneys
A highly trained and knowledgeable Social Security Disability team should be able to help you determine what kind of ongoing care you need to try to prove your claim, or if your documentation is sufficient. Several of our staff members have more than ten years of Social Security Disability experience, including many years with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Disability Determination Services division. Rick Fleming, one of our Social Security Disability lawyers is a NC Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law. Only 51 attorneys out of 28,000 in North Carolina can claim this specialized designation in Social Security Disability law.*
* North Carolina State Bar, December 31, 2015