Do Not Talk To Your Doctor About Your Social Security Case. One of the most common mistakes that I see claimants make is they talk to their doctors about their Social Security case. You wouldn’t necessarily think this is a problem. However, doctors typically record patients’ “presenting complaints” in their medical chart. If you express concern about your Social Security case, your chart-note will likely say things like: “Patient worried about disability benefits.” Or: “Patient applying for disability benefits.” Social Security will obtain these medical records and might conclude that you are seeing the doctor because you are trying to get disability benefits – and not because you are sick. You may think this sounds unreasonable or unfair, but I have seen it occur time and time again. Therefore, my first piece of advice is: Do not speak to any healthcare provider about your Social Security disability case. The one caveat to this is: if your doctors raise the issue with you, then it is fine to answer their questions. But you should not initiate the conversation. Rely on your lawyer to obtain the necessary information from your doctor for your disability case. When you go to your medical appointments, you should focus on your symptoms and not your case. Anne Kysar gave similar advice in her blog post “Top 10 Mistakes SSDI Applications” but it bears repeating here.
Go To Your Doctor Appointments. I’m the first to admit: When I am sick there are times that I simply do not want to go to the doctor. Who wants to drag themselves out of bed, get dressed, travel to an appointment, and sit in the waiting room when you feel miserable? Do it. If you are unable to work due to illness or injury, then see your doctor. Social Security will obtain your medical records and if you have missed or canceled appointments, Social Security may conclude that the reason you didn’t make it to those appointments is because you aren’t as sick or injured as you say you are. Now if you don’t actually need to see the doctor, then don’t go. You shouldn’t waste your time or their time with unnecessary appointments. But otherwise, go to your medical appointments.
Go to the Consultative Evaluation. Social Security may send you for a physical evaluation, a psychological evaluation, or both with a doctor of their choosing. Sometimes the evaluation is very helpful and results in a claimant being awarded benefits. Sometimes the evaluation is not helpful. When it isn’t helpful, your lawyer should request reports from your doctors explaining your symptoms and limitations, since the law requires that Social Security give more weight to the opinion of your treating doctor than someone you see at the request of Social Security for a one-time consultation. Either way, you must go to the consultative examination. This is because, if you don’t go, Social Security will likely use your failure to cooperate with the examination as a basis for denying your claim. Linda Worthington previously wrote a very insightful blog post on consultative examinations which you can read about here.
Do your best at the consultative examination. Do your best at the consultative examinations and be honest. Some of the tests given at a consultative examination may be designed to detect if you are exaggerating or faking your symptoms. So treat the appointment like any medical or mental health appointment and provide truthful, accurate information.
Turn in the “Adult Function Report” and your “Work History Report.” Your claim may be denied for “insufficient evidence” if you fail to turn in these forms. It’s a hassle, especially when you feel lousy, but do it. If you need help, ask your lawyer for guidance. Anne gave great advice on filling out the Function Report in a previous blog post which you can view here.
You have the Right to Remain Silent. Consider exercising your right to remain silent. Remember the song America that some of us (including me) frequently sang in grade school: “My Country Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty for thee I sing.” Or what about our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner:
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
We do not live in a police state. We are not required to speak to the police just because they ask. If you have filed a Social Security Disability Application and receive an unexpected knock on your door from a detective with the Washington State Patrol, it might turn out that they are investigating you for Social Security Disability fraud. The detective may be considering: Do you look disabled? Do you sound disabled? Do you act disabled? This occurs in rare instances, but it does happen. And the officer won’t necessarily say that he is there because of your disability claim. So if an officer knocks on your door – even if he says he is there to investigate a report of identity theft in the neighborhood – you can politely decline to be interviewed. You are under no obligation to open the door and speak with the detective. You have this right because, as the songs say: this is the “sweet land of liberty” and the “land of the free.” You can always consider giving the detective your attorney’s business card and asking the detective to contact your lawyer to arrange the interview. Sometimes, as the Four Seasons’ song from the 1960’s goes: Silence is golden.