Maintaining Treatment

Social Security Disability appeals and the need to show ongoing medical treatment of all disabling conditions.

It is always a challenge to prove to an Administrative Law Judge that you are disabled enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits.

In a recent case, where the individual is known to have severe arthritic degeneration in multiple levels in the cervical spine and the lumbar spine, even where there is medical proof of disc herniation’s, spinal cord narrowing (stenosis) and foraminal impingements at multiple levels, and partial fusions of joints, as the body tries to overcome the damage, the Administrative Law Judge still refused to consider a detailed description of disability, signed by the attending physician. The attending physician confirmed that the claimant would not be capable of full-time work, either at light or sedentary exertion and would have severe problems with bending, twisting, reaching, lifting or carrying. Yet, the Administrative Law Judge rejected the opinion of the treating medical provider.

The primary reason that the Administrative Law Judge gave for disregarding the precise and detailed description of the claimant’s restrictions was that the claimant had not continued to treat the condition regularly for the past two years.

At the hearing, the claimant explained that at her last consult with orthopedic surgeons, the orthopedist had concluded that her condition was not operable. There were many complicating factors as to why they would not offer surgery.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have an Administrative Law Judge disregard the detailed report of a treating orthopedic surgeon. The Administrative Law Judge attempted to justify the rejection of the statement from the treating physician by stating, “she has not undergone any consistent treatment. The Administrative Law Judge made note that the claimant had not received any prescribed muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories or pain medication, but rather uses only ibuprofen.”

Thus, we see that when pursuing your Social Security benefit it is absolutely imperative that you maintain regular contact with your doctors. You should ask your doctors to chart all of your ongoing medical complaints and symptoms. Sometimes doctors who see you over and over for the same condition may not be very detailed in their description. This can hurt you in your appeal.

Even if your doctors are only seeing you to prescribe further pain medications and anti-inflammatories, these consults and appointments, even on a bi-monthly basis, show that the problem continues to be a severe impairment.

If you stop treatment from your doctor, the Administrative Law Judge is likely to conclude that the problem no longer remains an impairment to returning to work.