Many of the disability cases I see involve back or leg pain.
In these cases, x-rays and MRIs can go a long way toward getting a favorable decision, but when a claimant appears to be in more pain than imaging would indicate, an administrative law judge (ALJ) will consider other parts of their medical records.
This is where off-handed comments to a doctor can make or break a case.
For example, a claimant with back problems may tell a doctor they’ve been in pain after moving furniture a few days prior.
Without elaboration, a physician will put this in his notes, and an ALJ might interpret this as a claimant doing hours of back-breaking labor when in fact a claimant might have only been able to move a couple small tables.
In a case like this, it’s important to be precise in telling your doctor exactly what you were doing.
Occasionally, clients will also mention they are working to their doctors while seeking disability benefits, and then try to deny they ever did any work when they go before the ALJ, even when the ALJ points out exactly when they told a doctor this.
This is one of the worst things a claimant can do for their credibility, and isn’t even worth lying about as it is perfectly within Social Security’s rules to work part-time while a disability application is pending.
However, providing more information to your physician to add in his or her notes can also be helpful to your case.
Again ,going back to a claimant with back or leg pain, if you have side effects from pain medication such as drowsiness or dizziness, telling your doctor about these side effects so they can be included in your medical records can be much more helpful to your case than if you just bring this up to the ALJ at your hearing.
When seeking disability benefits, it’s best to think of your doctors as newspaper reporters. Anything you tell them can (and likely will) show up in print, so being truthful and accurate is of the utmost importance for your claim to have the best chance of success.