The Importance of Being Earnest

Social Security claimants are often advised to be honest before the Court and the Administrative Law Judge – they are, after all, sworn in and giving testimony under oath. However, claimants – especially those that do not seek counsel at the Initial and Reconsideration stages – rarely get counseled on how important complete honesty is at these earlier stages of the process.

When working on applications at the Initial and Reconsideration stages, I advise clients of the importance of being earnest. This means making everyone aware of the good and bad days the claimant is having, and making sure all medical providers are receiving a complete and accurate picture of the claimant’s limitations.

Often, by the time an individual wants to apply for his or her Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, they have formed a friendly relationship with their doctors or medical care providers. Because of the friendlier relationship, I find that clients often overshare or sometimes only share the “good days” they are having while down playing the bad. This could be for a number of reasons, including wanting to get help but not wanting to seem “whiny,” but regardless, this creates an incomplete medical record.

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As such, I advise clients to be honest and to provide a comprehensive, accurate picture to their doctors. While it is important for medical providers to be aware of the “good days,” as we all wish the client would regain health and return to work, the doctor knowing the quantity and severity of “bad days” is equally as important.

To help clients remember to share complete information with their medical care providers, I recommend they keep a journal, notebook, or notepad by their bed, kitchen table, or in a location that is easy to remember to use. In this journal, the client should document such things as difficulty ambulating/moving, pain level from 1-10, migraines or dizziness spells (and their durations), fatigue, memory issues, falls, or any other limitations experienced due to their mental or physical health. This documentation then needs to be passed to the treating medical care provider. This will allow the doctor to have a complete and honest picture of the claimant’s daily living and this should then be reflected in the medical record and treatment.

Showcasing medical records reflecting your limitations is a critical step to winning a Social Security case, as I have discussed in previous posts. I often tell clients that “You could have Johnny Cochran as your attorney, but without medical records, even he couldn’t win your case!” Well, maybe Johnny could, but the overriding point is that medical records are fundamental resources for proving your disability to Social Security. If your doctor or medical care provider does not have an accurate picture as to what your daily life is like and the limitations you are experiencing, then the medical evidence used to support your claim will most likely be lacking and you could lose your case.

To summarize: It is important for social security claimants to be earnest. To best do this, document your daily trials and tribulations in a journal and present to your doctor. This helps your doctor get a complete picture as to your disability and limitations which will subsequently be reflected in the records and, in turn, help your social security case.