May 21, 2015

Why Are Medical Records So Important to My Social Security Disability Claim?

Whenever I talk about the keys to a Social Security disability claim, I emphasize the importance of medical records.  Medical records are important because the Social Security Administration (SSA) cannot find you disabled under its rules without finding that you have a “medically determinable impairment.”  In other words, you must be able to provide acceptable medical evidence, such as objective test results or treatment notes showing diagnoses from acceptable medical sources, that proves that you have a medical condition that prevents you from being able to work. Why are Medical Records Important? While the SSA will most likely send you for an independent consultative examination to determine your diagnoses and symptoms, it is important to have medical records showing that you have been diagnosed and treated on your own.  I have often seen decisions in which an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has concluded that a claimant’s impairment must not be as severe as he or she is alleging because the claimant did not receive significant medical treatment for it. Medical records are helpful in proving that you are disabled because they contain the diagnoses and clinical findings of medical providers who have treated you on a regular basis.  If those diagnoses and findings come from a doctor who specializes in treating your condition, Social Security will likely give them significant weight in determining whether your condition prevents you from working. What Kinds of Medical Records are Important? The most valuable records I can submit on behalf of my clients are objective test results.  X-rays, MRIs, nerve conduction studies, pulmonary function tests, and other tests give hard data showing the severity of certain conditions.  In fact, with appropriate test results it may be possible to show that you are disabled without even having to talk about whether you can perform work-like … Continued

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January 13, 2014

Medical Records and Being Prepared For Your Social Security Disability Hearing

In my practice as an Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney, I find that good communication is essential for me to provide the best possible representation for my clients.  My office takes pride in responding promptly and attentively to our clients’ calls, emails, and letters.  However, I am often surprised by clients who do not hold up their end of the deal!  My office mails several types of forms to our clients to help us collect the information we need to build a good case, and when clients do not return those forms promptly, it can really hurt our ability to prepare for their hearings. One of my office’s most important jobs in preparing for your hearing is submitting medical records that show the nature and extent of your disabilities.  We strive to work quickly and efficiently to request, follow up, and submit your medical records, but we cannot do any of those things unless you tell us where you have been receiving treatment.  As soon as we know when your hearing is scheduled, we will ask you to provide a complete list of your medical providers.  It can take weeks – sometimes over a month – for medical offices to process our requests for records, so if you wait to give us this information until a few days before your hearing, we probably won’t have all of your records submitted before the hearing is held. In my opinion, not having complete medical records available at your hearing will put you at a distinct disadvantage.  First, most of the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) who decide Social Security disability appeals review the claimant’s file before the hearing.  The ALJ wants to know if you have been receiving consistent treatment, if you have been hospitalized for your condition, and if you have had any surgeries or other invasive treatments.  In short, the ALJ wants to make sure that your medical records provide objective evidence to support your … Continued

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June 4, 2009

Obtaining Social Security Disabiltiy Benefits with Good Medical Records

Most people are not familiar with the Social Security disability claims process.  When you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the success of your claim often depends on providing good supporting medical records.  It is important to know what medical documentation that the Social Security Administration (SSA) needs.  Without an attorney, it is the SSA’s responsibility to secure your medical records.  An attorney has experience in knowing how to request this information from doctors and other medical professionals.  Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis sees a variety of medical records every day and knows how important good supporting medical documentation can be in getting your Social Security benefits approved.  Here are a few key things to keep in mind when seeing your doctor and accumulating medical records: An abundance of pertinent records relating to your disability will usually help the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in finding a favorable result in your case. Try to make it easy on the Social Security Administration (SSA) by seeing your doctor(s) on a regular basis and providing the SSA with good medical records. Adequate progress notes can help in obtaining a favorable decision.  If your physician can document your disabilities on a consistent basis showing the disabilities you are having, it can greatly enhance your case. Tests verifying your disabilities can have an impact on a favorable outcome.  MRI’s, EKG’s, and various other objective tests showing the severity of your disability are things the SSA and your attorney can use to substantiate your case. A clear diagnosis or assessment of your disability is critical in getting your benefits.  The Listing of Impairments defines disabilities that the Social Security Administration recognizes.  If you have a distinct diagnosis by your physician that meets or equals one of these listings your ability to obtain Social … Continued

Filed under: Claims Process, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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September 1, 2014

Medical Expert Testimony at Your Social Security Disability Hearing

When the day finally arrives for your Social Security disability hearing, you may find that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has asked one or more doctors to testify about your ability to do work-related activities. Some, but not all, Administrative Law Judges call on medical experts to testify at hearings. You may be wondering how a doctor who has never seen you before can testify about your medical conditions and how they affect your ability to work.   In my experience, medical expert testimony at a disability hearing has both advantages and disadvantages.  An experienced disability attorney knows how to prepare for a hearing to maximize those advantages while defending against the disadvantages. Some doctors who testify at hearings appear in person, but many testify over the phone. Social Security pays each medical expert a flat fee to review a claimant’s medical file and provide unbiased testimony at the hearing.  In my experience, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has difficulty finding qualified doctors to testify; most practicing physicians have neither the time nor the financial incentive to work as a medical expert for Social Security.  Most of the doctors I see at hearings are retired general practitioners.  While  the ALJs typically request testimony from doctors who specialize in the claimant’s impairments, it is often difficult for Social Security to find such a specialist who is available to testify. Each medical expert at your hearing is expected to have reviewed all of the medical records in your file and be prepared to present his opinions on the following issues: Your medical diagnoses Whether your impairments meet or equal the definitions set out in Social Security’s “Listing of Impairments” The physical and/or mental work-related limitations caused by your impairments The ALJ will likely ask the medical experts some additional questions, and you or your representative will have an opportunity to ask questions as well. Many judges … Continued

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January 1, 2014

What kind of medical documentation does the Social Security Administration consider when determining my eligibility for Social Security disability benefits?

What kind of medical documentation does the Social Security Administration consider when determining my eligibility for Social Security disability benefits? All of the pertinent medical records obtained by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or supplied by your attorney/representative should be considered by the Social Security Administration in determining your disability. Upon initial application, it is important that you inform the Social Security Administration of all medical providers that can support your claim for disability. If you are being scheduled for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), as your hearing approaches, your attorney or representative will attempt to get all recent medical documentation. Along with your progress notes, MRI’s, EKG’s and various other supporting medical documentation, your Social Security disability lawyer might also supply your physicians with a Physical/Mental Residual Capacity Assessment, or perhaps a questionnaire confirming your disabling condition. Contact Us Contact Attorney Scott Lewis at (317) 423-8888 or complete the “Contact Us” form and our law firm will contact you to arrange a free consultation.


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December 16, 2010

Your Social Security Disability Claim and Acceptable Medical Testing

Indiana disability lawyer Scott Lewis finds on occasion his clients have a diagnosis without appropriate medical testing to back it up. At times, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will look through your medical record and remark that while it has volumes of records it is lacking appropriate medical testing. To put it in its simplest terms, you may complain of a broken leg, but without an X-ray you may have a difficult time convincing anyone there is actually a fracture.  Some common tests Indiana Social Security attorney Scott D. Lewis finds absent in a disability claimant’s medical file can include but are not limited to those claiming: Fibromyalgia With this diagnosis, Mr. Lewis has found Administrative Law Judge’s often have a hard time getting their hands around this condition without appropriate testing.  Because currently there is no X-ray or lab testing for the diagnosis of Fibromiyalgia, many times tender points throughout the body are used to determine a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.  A diagnosis of Fibromyalgia may be made when a patient is positive in 11 of 18 of these tender points.  Does this mean you will qualify for Indiana Social Security disability benefits?  Not always, as some Administrative Law Judges are still skeptical as to this diagnosis. Various Breathing Disorders  Pulmonary functioning tests may be beneficial to a claim for a breathing disorder.  A few of these tests can include spirometry and methocholine challenge.  If you suffer from COPD, emphysema, asthma, or any other pulmonary condition you should consult your physician for appropriate testing. Impairments of the Spine  Those Indiana Social Security disability claimants finding they are experiencing a disabling condition due to neck and/or back problems should seek appropriate medical testing such as an MRI.  In Indiana Social Security attorney Scott Lewis’ experience, a MRI can be crucial in … Continued

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May 26, 2010

What is a Medical Vocational Allowance?

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis has many clients that win their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim by means of a Medical Vocational Allowance. You may wonder what this means when it comes to Social Security disability claims. As Attorney Scott Lewis explains to his clients, it is a way of winning a disability claimant’s claim not based on one of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) qualifying “Listing of Impairments.” So, how can a disability claimant possibly win a disability claim if they don’t meet or exceed one of the medical listing of impairments defined by the SSA?  A Medical Vocational Allowance (also known as Med-Voc) is a term used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to define when someone is awarded Social Security disability benefits when the disability claim does not match one of the disabilities listed in the “Listing of Impairments.”  How does this work?  When the SSA is reviewing a disability claimant’s application, the examiner will request all medical records from sources the claimant has listed on their application.  Once the medical records are received, the SSA will evaluate the claimant’s condition and compare the impairment with the listings of the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments” (Blue Book).  The “Listing of Impairments” is a list of all qualifying conditions and impairments with their symptoms that a claimant must meet in order to be eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits.  If a claimant does not meet or exceed a particular listing, the claimant is often denied disability benefits.  However, this is how the Med-Voc comes into play.  When a disability claimant does not meet a listing, but the SSA examiner decides based on the claimant’s medical evidence that the claimant’s disability is severe enough, that the claimant is unable to work, and the … Continued

Filed under: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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November 3, 2009

Acceptable Medical Sources for Social Security Disability

Are you an Indiana resident filing a claim for Social Security disability?  Are you seeing a medical doctor regarding your disability?  Is your treating physician a nurse practitioner?  It’s not uncommon for claimants to schedule their medical appointments with the medical office nurse practitioner rather than the doctor.  This may affect whether or not you will receive a favorable ruling on your disability claim.   When the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates a claim, they will review the medical evidence submitted by your medical sources.  Treatment notes, medical documentation or records must be submitted by “acceptable medical sources.”  The SSA has two categories of medical sources.  There are “acceptable medical sources” and other health care providers that are not “acceptable medical sources.”  It is important to submit medical evidence that was reported by “acceptable medical sources.” “Acceptable medical sources” may include: Licensed physicians Licensed or certified psychologists Licensed podiatrists Licensed optometrists Qualified speech-language pathologists Unfortunately, the SSA does not categorize nurse practitioners or chiropractors as being an “acceptable medical source.”  This means that the medical evidence from a chiropractor or nurse practitioner cannot establish your medical impairment.  Although, information from other sources can be used to support your claim. These other sources may include non-medical sources such as social workers and employers; and public and private social welfare agencies; and other medical practitioners, such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, naturopaths, and chiropractors. Does this mean that your claim will be denied because you are not seeing an “acceptable medical source?”  Not always, the ultimate decision is in an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) hands.  It is important for Indiana residents to keep in mind the medical sources that the SSA prefers may enhance your ability to receive a favorable ruling.  If you would like a free consultation with Attorney Scott D. Lewis to discuss your Social Security disability claim, call (317) 423-8888.

Filed under: Medical Treatment, Social Security Disability Benefits Claims Process
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July 16, 2009

Do Medical Experts (ME) or Vocational Experts (VE) Always Testify at an Administrative Law Judge Hearing?

Indianapolis Social Security Disability claimants often ask if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will always have experts testify at their Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing.  In simple terms, the answer is “no, not always.”  There are multiple reasons why an expert may not testify at the disability hearing.  Some ALJ’s simply do not use a Medical Experts (ME) or Vocational Experts (VE).  Other ALJ’s may use one expert but may not use the other expert.  Although the reasons vary, some reasons could include the availability of these experts and whether or not the ALJ has already looked at your case and may decide you are getting a favorable decision before you have even walked through the door.  Many experienced Administrative Law Judges feel that they can make a fair decision based on the claimant’s testimony and the medical records.  Hopefully, they have looked thoroughly at the claimant’s medical records and will come to a fact based decision as to what the limitations are regarding the claimant’s disability.  Once the ALJ has established the limitations, they consider whether the claimant can perform their past employment, or with the restrictions determined, whether they can perform other employment. Are your chances of winning your disability claim better if there are no experts?  In Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis’s opinion, probably not.  While expert testimony can help lay out the framework for a decision, most Administrative Law Judge’s are going to go through the same process without the aid of expert testimony.  An attorney representing you in your disability claim should be ready for the presence of experts and have an appropriate line of questions ready if needed. If you have questions regarding your Social Security Disability claim, contact Attorney Scott Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888.

Filed under: Hearings Process
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December 4, 2017

Testifying at Your Social Security Disability Hearing About Your Pain

Pain is probably the most common complaint my clients have concerning their inability to work.  Physical pain can manifest itself in about any area of your body, and describing it to someone else is not always easy. Chances are when you find yourself at a Social Security disability hearing, you are going to need to explain your pain to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  This blog describes some of the more common questions I find that Judges ask about pain. Where is the pain located?  During this portion of testimony, I find many of my clients want to point to where they are affected by pain with hand gestures.  It is important to remember your hearing is being recorded, and you will need to describe in more detail with words exactly where you feel pain.  For example, if you have back pain, you would need to say “it is in my lower back and radiates down my right leg” if that is the case. What does the pain feel like?  Descriptive terms like dull, throbbing, stabbing, sharp, burning can usually give a Judge a good idea of what you are experiencing.  These are not the only words that can describe your pain, but it is important for you to be able to describe what you feel as you are the only one that knows exactly what you feel. How often do you have the pain?  It is fine to say you experience pain all the time if that is the case, but if it is only when you perform certain activities, you should explain it in more detail to the Judge.  This is where you may want to describe difficulties standing, walking, sitting, lifting, and performing daily activities. Can you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10 … Continued

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