The ongoing pandemic has created a difficult situation for many individuals with chronic conditions who have pending disability claims.
Remember that disability cases are built on consistent medical treatment. The more providers you see and the more treatment you receive, the easier it is to show you have severe impairments that prevent you from working.
However, the current pandemic has forced many hospitals to postpone “elective” surgeries such as knee replacements or back surgeries that are often cornerstones of disability cases.
Many claimants are unable to attend physical therapy sessions, and even those who regularly seek treatment at ERs or urgent cares are putting off visits to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus.
The result is that we’re starting to see many cases where claimants just stopped treating around late February or early March when lockdowns went into effect.
Right now, that isn’t a huge problem in most cases at the hearing level. Judges are understanding of the current situation, and usually don’t require medical evidence right up to the hearing date.
But as the pandemic continues, this could present more of a problem, as Social Security’s rules allow claims to be denied for lack of medical treatment without a good reason.
Of course, a pandemic is a really good reason to not consistently seek treatment, but some administrative law judges are extremely stubborn about this type of thing.
In the meantime, if you have a pending disability claim, I would recommend attending telemedicine appointments whenever possible to show you have treated consistently throughout the pandemic.
Worst case, as Social Security is continuing to hold hearings by phone for the foreseeable future, you may want to request that your hearing be postponed, but that could delay your hearing by 6-12 months, so it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of a delay with your attorney before requesting one.