How to Have “The Talk”

Artwork: Robin Mead

Talking to your doctor about your disability application is one of the best things you can do to help your case.

If your doctor does not support your disability application and does not believe that you should apply for disability, it can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to get approved.

Sadly, many people do not discover what their doctor thinks until it is too late. Happily, you are going to go talk to your doctor right now while there is still time and you still have options.

Some people think they have their doctors support, and it turns out they don’t. But some people think they don’t have support and it turns out they do!

Please don’t give up hope on your doc until you have tried talking through the things on this page. You may discover that your doctor really does support you but was not clearly understanding what you were asking for and what kind of help you needed.

Here’s a few great ways to talk to your doc:

πŸ„Β  Get Ready

You do not need to do anything special to get ready, but if you are the type of person who likes to learn more and be prepared, head on over here and read more about getting ready to talk to your doc.

πŸ„ Decide if You are Disabled

This step sounds ridiculous, but truth be told, this is probably the hardest and most important step. And this is the one step I see the most people skip at the beginning. When you apply for disability you are going to have to answer a lot of questions and your answers will be very important.Β If you believe you are disabled your answers will be different than if you believe you are not disabled. Only you know what your body is capable of. Only you know if you truly tried to work as hard as you could, and if you really are not able to do it. At the end of the day, this is your decision to make.

πŸ„ Try to Make Peace with Your Decision

Doctor’s are only human. If you show up to your doctor and make statements that are confusing and you contradict yourself, your doctor may feel unsure and confused about how to advise you. If you give your doctor mixed messages, your doctor may give you mixed messages. Or, even worse, they may write inconsistent things in your records.

πŸ„ Let Your Doctor Know What You Want

Most doctors are nice people. They don’t want to say to someone β€œYou’re totally disabled! And you will never work again!!” Because then their patients will cry.

You can make things easier for your doc here. Tell you doctor what is true for you. If you are unable to work, tell your doctor. If you are severely disabled, tell your doctor. If you are definitely applying for disability and you have already made this decision, tell your doctor. If you will feel happy if your doctor supports you, tell your doctor. Your doctor may feel good about supporting you if she understands what you are asking for.

πŸ„ Be brave!

Many people feel shy or nervous about being upfront with their doctor about their condition and their disability application.

Even if it is difficult for you, I hope you find a way to be brave and try something outside of your comfort zone. Just think about how much better your life will be once you have what you need to take care of yourself.

πŸ„ It Does not Have to be Long

You don’t need to make a giant speech. Here is what Judy said to her doctor:

“I went to my doctor and said: I am applying for disability because my condition is very severe and I am completely unable to work. I am having severe, debilitating weakness, fatigue and pain. I cannot work at all, and I cannot stand, sit or walk for extended periods. I would love to know your medical opinion. Do you agree that I am unable to work and applying for disability is a good choice for me?

“My doctor said, yes, she agreed that I was disabled and could not work.Β I thanked her for her support and let her know how much I appreciated that she understood my condition. I told her I did not want to create a lot of extra paperwork and asked if it was OK to set up one extra appointment to fill out a special form. She agreed to do this and I thanked her for helping me.”

πŸ„ Tell Your Doctor Your Limitations

At every doctor’s visit you have, it is a big help if you can talk about functioning. This is the kind of information Social Security looks for in your medical records. Talk your doctor and let them know: Are you having any problems with sitting, standing, walking, moving, dressing, bathing or eating? Does your illness or medications give you difficulties with thinking, remembering or concentrating?

πŸ„ Explain Why You Are Unable to Work

If you talk to your doctor, make sure to explain if there are any symptoms that keep you from being able to work.

Some people think they will be approved for Social Security because they are unable to keep a job. This is not true. They will only be approved for Social Security if they are medically unable to work. Other problems do not matter. It does not matter if they have no childcare, no transportation, or a bad boss. The only way for someone to be approved for disability is if their medical symptoms make it impossible for them to perform a job.

πŸ„ If You Are Working Now

If you are working part time, you can still apply for disability. It will be more difficult to get approved, but it is still possible. You can tell your doctor the Social Security definition of disability: Unable to maintain work earning more than $1,170 per month. Talk with your doctor about how you meet this definition.

πŸ„ Ask Your Doctor’s Opinion

Your doctor may just tell you their opinion. If they don’t, you can always try asking. “Doctor, in your medical opinion, do you think I can work?” or β€œDo you think I can work full time?” “Doctor, do you agree with my decision to apply for disability?” Believe me when I tell you, you really want to know what your doctor thinks about these things.

πŸ„ Reassure Your Doctor

Many doctors get freaked out by disability applications, because they think they will have to go to court or fill out a lot of paperwork. If your doc seems hesitant, you can put their mind at ease. Let them know that you will not bring them a lot of paperwork or expect their help forever. You would just like to set up a few extra appointments over the next year or so while you are applying and maybe have one form or one letter you’d like help with.

πŸ„ Thank You, Doctor

If your doctor agrees you should apply for disability and supports your application, be grateful. Remember, it is not your doctor’s job to fill out paperwork or support your application. He does not have to do this. Going forward, try to keep your requests simple and limited,Β “Thank you, Doctor! I am so lucky to have a doctor like you. I promise not to be a lot of extra work or paperwork.”

πŸ„ Bad News at theΒ Doctor

If your doctor does not support your application, this is not really bad news… it is good news because they told you! It is excellent to find this out now while there is still time to make a difference. Many people do not find this out until it is too late, and some people don’t find it out until three years later when they read their denial letter!

πŸ„ Double Check

Sometimes what a doctor says is not the same as what they write. Sometimes what a doctor says will be vague or unclear. Sometimes a doctor is a super nice person who really supports you and wants to help you get better, but keeps really sucky records that can tank your disability case.

It is a great idea to read your medical records and see what your doctor is writing. Hint: Do not read your records online. Do not read the office summaries you are handed at the front desk. Pay them money and sign the release forms so you can get your complete and full records withΒ all treatment notes.

πŸ„ Why So Vague, Doc

Sadly, some doctors do not believe people should be on disability and do not support any of their patients to apply.

Some doctor’s may tell you this outright, but others may make vague statements about “recovery” or being “focused on your treatment” or “working being good for you.” A doctor that does not support or believe in disability could make it impossible to ever get approved. Please read Dandelion’s extremely helpful story: Dandelion Switches Doctors

πŸ„ All Done?

How did it go? Did your doctor support your application a little, a lot or not at all? No matter what happened, You have some options for next steps.

Updated April 2017Β πŸ„


3 thoughts on “How to Have “The Talk””

  1. I have a hearing this week but after having a PA for 2 years she told me she wasnt in my shoes and she thinks we should all try our hardest. The same office refused an MRI on my neck after 14yrs neck pain and 4yrs post a serious fall resulting in a TBI and lower back injury also yet they refused to check my neck as if this wasnt all real. I fired them the next week. I will be reporting them and every other doctor in the last 8 years that neglected proper care because I look ok and my illnesses are invisible. It wasn’t easy to ask these questions but that one office alone was putting in inccorect dx, offering surgery wo an MRI, and not fully treating my issues. We deserve better than half a$$ care! Thank you for this article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lisa,

      I am very glad you are standing up for yourself. You are not alone, many people go through this with their docs.

      I hope your hearing goes great!! πŸ’™ πŸ’œ πŸ’– Lily


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