SpecialistEvidence of continued medical treatment and care from a healthcare professional for your impairment is an essential component to winning your Social Security Disability claim. If you are not receiving ongoing medical treatment, Social Security may assume you are no longer disabled and, on that basis, deny you benefits.

While a general doctor’s diagnosis and treatment of your disability is a good starting point, a medical statement and treatment from a specialist likely will carry more weight with Social Security and the Administrative Law Judge who will preside at your appeal hearing. For example, let’s say you have a debilitating heart condition. Your primary doctor may know you best, but a cardiologist may be the best person to accurately document your limitations and explain the impact of your impairment on your ability to work and function.

Simply put, your credibility is critical to your case. If a judge doubts your credibility and believes you are being untruthful or exaggerating your symptoms, it is likely you will be turned down for benefits. A medical specialist with experience and especially board certification in treating your disability bolsters the credibility of your claim. Board certification is a mark of distinction. It indicates that the medical provider has undertaken education beyond the minimal standards and competency requirements in a chosen specialty. At Cuddigan Law we strongly encourage our clients to see specialists before we proceed with their cases.

To find a specialist, a good place to start is with your primary care physician. Explain to him or her that you are applying for Social Security disability and that you would like to get an appointment with a specialist. After your physician has made a referral, follow up by setting an appointment.

In most cases, you should tell your specialist that you are filing for disability. That being said, in some cases, it is not a good idea to go to your first appointment with a specialist and immediately begin discussing disability benefits. This could raise understandable concerns on the part of the doctor. After all, you are there first and foremost for treatment in order to improve your condition and your functioning.

The most common reason that Social Security disability claims are denied is because there is insufficient medical evidence of a disability and inadequate proof of how that condition restricts a person’s ability to work. To improve your chances of winning benefits, it is important to share the right information with your doctor to have the most helpful and specific medical evidence to prove your claim. So how do you initiate the conversation with your doctor about your disability claim? You can start the conversation with your doctors even before you submit a disability claim. This way, they can document the symptoms and limitations that you report, as well as things that they observe and recommend.

If you have more than one medical condition, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must take into consideration all of your impairments when deciding whether or not you qualify for disability benefits. For example, let’s say you have a disease like arthritis which causes chronic pain, and another illness that affects your respiratory system like asthma. Or you have carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as panic disorder. While the symptoms of these diseases, on their own, may not prevent you from working, when they act together, they may be disabling.

Therefore, being armed with the opinions and medical records from multiple specialists can further your case.  It takes a combined effort of our advocacy on behalf of our client and information from our client’s medical providers—including specialists when called for—to win a disability claim.

In summary, top-notch medical and legal advice are the most effective tools in winning Social Security disability benefits. For knowledgeable and skilled legal guidance contact the disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your situation. (For more on how to improve your chances of being awarded disability benefits read our blog post: “5 Tips for Winning Your Social Security Disability Case.”)


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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