As Denver disability attorneys, we spend a lot of time talking to our clients about their symptoms – difficulty breathing, fatigue, insomnia, pain, tremors, etc. We try to learn as much as we can because it is these symptoms, as much as the official diagnosis of impairment, that prevent our clients from working.
The Social Security Administration also wants to know about your symptoms. In evaulating your symptoms, the Social Security Administration looks for evidence to answer these two questions:
- Does the objective medical evidence demonstrate that a “medically determinable impairment” could cause the symptoms you claim to have?and
- Is the extent to which you claim to be disabled by your symptoms consistent with the evidence in your case as a whole?
Objective medical evidence
The first step in the Social Security Administration’s symptom analysis involves a review of the “objective medical evidence.” “Objective medical evidence” is medical evidence that can be reliably documented; it is lab reports, medical test results and other types of evidence typically found in medical records. The Social Security Administration will first look for evidence from “acceptable medical sources,” defined in the regulations to include licensed physicians (medical or osteopathic doctors) and licensed or certified psychologists, among others. At this initial stage of review, objective medical evidence of your symptoms is absolutely required; if the objective medical evidence does not support your alleged symptoms, your claim for Colorado disability benefits will fail.
All the evidence, considered as a whole
Assuming the objective medical evidence supports the existence of your symptoms, the Social Security Administration will then consider the “intensity, persistence, or functionally limiting effects” of your symptoms. As part of this second-stage review, the Social Security decision-maker must consider all the evidence in the record, as a whole. “All the evidence” means the objective medical evidence from acceptable medical sources, plus other medical evidence, including, for example, evidence from naturopaths and chiropractors; and subjective evidence, including your testimony and the testimony of witnesses in your favor.
In most cases, when the Social Security decision-maker considers all the evidence as a whole, the strongest piece of evidence – for or against your case – will be your testimony at your disability benefits hearing. The best testimony is detailed testimony that paints a clear picture of how your symptoms impact your daily activities and limit your ability to perform work-related functions. For example, if pain is a disabling symptom of your impairment, you will have to tell the judge something more than, “My back hurts.” Rather, your testimony should be detailed enough to answer all the following questions:
- How intense is the pain?
- Where is the pain centered?
- Does the pain radiate?
- Do you have related pain in other parts of your body?
- How long does the pain last?
- What triggers the pain?
- What do you do to ease the pain?
- How long are you able to sit, stand, walk?
- How much weight can you lift?
- What hobbies or activities are you no longer able to do because of the pain?
- How is your “typical” day now different from a “typical” day before you became disabled?
Easy steps you can take to create a complete record of your symptoms
Here are a few easy things you can do to help ensure that the Social Security Administration has a complete medical record and an accurate understanding of the nature and extent of your symptoms:
- If you have not already done so, see a doctor (i.e., an “accepted medical source”) to have your medical condition evaluated and documented. Objective medical records from an accepted medical source are essential.
- Always tell the truth about your symptoms and limitations, without exaggerating or minimizing your condition. Your statements to your doctor and the Social Security Administration should be consistent throughout. Contradictory statements will damage your credibility.
- Follow through with prescribed medical treatment. The Social Security Administration expects you to make an effort to get better. In most cases, failure to follow prescribed treatment will be detrimental to your case and may result in a denial of benefits.
- Keep a file of the contact information for all your treatment providers. Keep this file up-to-date. Your Denver disability lawyer may need to contact one or more of these providers to write a report or provide records.
- Keep a list or a calendar to record the dates of all your medical treatment. Your Denver disability lawyer can use this list to verify that the Social Security Administration has all your medical records.
- Keep a symptom diary to record how and to what extent your symptoms affect your daily activities. A symptom diary can be persuasive evidence at your disability hearing.
Denver disability lawyers, Radosevich & Dixon, can help
An experienced Denver disability lawyer can help you obtain a complete medical record from your healthcare providers; monitor your symptoms and medical treatment; discuss the Denver disability hearing process with you; and make sure you are comfortable talking about the impact of your symptoms on your daily routine. At Radosevich & Dixon, Social Security disability law is all we do. If you would like the benefit of our experience, please complete the Free Claim Evaluation form on the right side of this page or send us an email.