By David S. Bross, Esquire
In previous columns, I have offered mostly “nuts and bolts” instructions for filing and succeeding in disability claims. Here is a modest suggestion, which I think, kills two birds with one stone: LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR. This strengthens your chances of winning when you make a disability claim, while also (it is hoped), helping restore to you some quality of life.
In a prior column, I exhorted the reader to be fully compliant with her doctor’s instructions and prescriptions. It always amazes me how often this simple advice goes unheeded at the patient’s own peril. For instance:
1. If you still smoke, quit. I know — it’s easier said than done, particularly if you are a life-long smoker. Nonetheless, difficult as it may be, there is probably no better action to take to improve your health. If you have health insurance which will cover it, get a prescription for an appropriate aid. If this is not an option, talk to your doctor (as well as to friends and family who may have managed to quit) about a strategy to help you achieve this goal. Smoking is a nasty self-defeating habit under the best of circumstances, but when you are suffering through an illness or some exacerbation of a previously-controlled health condition, continued smoking can be disastrous.
2. If you are grossly overweight, lose weight. Again, often difficult, but well worth the effort. The connection between excess poundage and heart problems has long been established. Now we learn that weight-related diabetes is on the rise — one journal reports a dramatic one-third jump in the incidence of diabetes in just eight years. This increase has been sharpest among people in their 30s. As with smoking, consult your doctor for a strategy that will work for you. There is a “diet” and an “exercise” program for virtually everyone. Obviously, losing weight becomes even more challenging if your ability to exercise is limited by joint pain, muscle weakness, and the like, and the medication you may be taking (e.g. Prednisone) may cause you to gain weight, but now is not the time to give up. Whatever the nature and extent of your disability, the psychological benefits should make it worth the effort.
3. Keep your appointments, take your medicine exactly as prescribed, and undergo whatever tests your doctor recommends without delay. This of course speaks for itself. It is not really fair to tell your doctor that the treatment you are getting is not working until you have given it your best shot as your doctor has prescribed.
4. Be sure to provide your doctor/nurse practitioner with a complete and accurate history/recitation of your complaints and limitations at each visit. It’s always a good idea to write things down and bring them with you to your visits — you can even give written notes to the doctor/nurse to be placed in your chart. Try to be sure that your doctor/ nurse is listening to your issues and recording them in your chart — don’t be afraid to politely but firmly assert yourself here.
As with smoking and weight loss, making your best effort to follow your doctor’s instructions and recommendations has the added benefit of proving compliance, which is often crucial to succeeding in a disability claim. The judge who may eventually decide your case will be much less sympathetic if you disregard your doctor’s suggestions.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.