How to Have “The Talk”

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Art: Robin Mead

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

Sadly, some of our readers report that they did not find out what their doctor really thought until after they waited three years, went to a hearing, and then read the judge’s decision letter.

Happily, this is not going to happen to you! You can find out right now what your doctor thinks so you can make smart choices and take good next steps.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your doc, here’s some other ways for How To Find Out What Your Doctor REALLY Thinks.

If you want to talk to your doc, here’s some tips and ideas:

Step One: 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 we 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. 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 and mind 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.

Try to Make Peace with Your Decision

Doctors 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.

Let Your Doctor Know What You Want

Most doctors are nice people. They don’t want to say to someone “You’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 your 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 your application, tell your doctor. Your doctor may feel good about supporting you if she understands what you are asking for.

Don’t Give Up On Your Doc

Some doctors suck at treatment and are great at disability documentation. Some doctors are great at treatment and suck at documentation.

Don’t give up on your doc just because they are not able to figure out all the answers to your medical problems. They still may be a good support for your disability documentation.

If there are doctors you saw in the past that were not able to help your condition, they still might be helpful to go back for documentation.

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, we 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.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Long

You don’t have to make a long giant speech. It’s also probably better not to send your doctor a long letter. Some doctor’s don’t like being given long things to read.

A brief statement is fine. Or a short note, if you are sure that your doctor will actually see it (sometimes notes are read by office staff only). Here’s what Marigold did:

Marigold’s Story

I went to my doctor and said:

“I have decided that I am applying for disability. I am having severe weakness, fatigue and pain every day. I am not able to do laundry, cook, or shop for myself anymore.

“I think disability will really be a great help in my life. It will take so much stress off me to have health insurance and treatment and not worry about becoming homeless.

“I know you are really busy, so I will not ask you for a lot of paperwork, but I am wondering if I have your support and if you agree with my decision to apply.”

My doctor said, yes, she agreed. 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.

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 work full time or unable maintain work earning more than Substantial Gainful Activity. Talk with your doctor about how you meet this definition.

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 “Do you think I can work full time?” “Doctor, do you agree with my decision to apply for disability?” Believe us when we tell you, you really want to know what your doctor thinks about these things.

Reassure Your Doctor

Some 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 do not need them to go to a hearing and testify for you. You would just like to set up a few extra appointments so you can have better documentation of your condition.

NOTE: This is for Social Security. If you are applying for disability through your employer’s insurance company, there may, in fact, be more paperwork required.

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. For Social Security, most people ask their doctor for one form or letter. During regular visits they may also request that their symptoms and limitations be written into their records. If you are also applying for LTD, (employer disability) there may be more paperwork.

Double Check

Sometimes what a doctor says is not the same as what they write. It is a great idea to read your medical records and see what your doctor is writing. Make sure you also get any doctor notes that don’t appear online.

Bad News at the Doc? 

This might help:

What To Do If Your Doctor Does Not Support Your Disability Application

How to Deal with a Doctor Who Hates Paperwork


TWO CONVERSATIONS WITH THE SAME DOCTOR

Sometimes doctors want to help you, but don’t understand what you are asking for or what kind of support you are wanting.  Here’s an example of two conversations with someone trying to apply for disability:

GOOD DOCTOR / CONFUSING CONVERSATION

You: “Doc, I’m so sick all the time. I’m worried I won’t be able to work again. I really want to work but I am in so much pain and I can’t stand up. I have no money. What should I do?”

Doctor: “I believe in you. I believe you will be able to work. Maybe you can find a job you can do sitting down.”

You: “I want to work but I’m so sick. I wonder if I should apply for disability.”

Doctor: “Don’t give up hope. We can try a different medication. Maybe you can try working part time.”

GOOD DOCTOR / CLEAR CONVERSATION

You: “Doc, I am completely disabled and unable to work. I am applying for Social Security Disability. I know that disability will give me healthcare and keep me from being homeless. I would be so grateful for your support. I am wondering what your medical opinion is and if you support my claim for disability?”

Doctor: “Yes. I believe in you. I support your application for disability”

You: “Thank you. I am so appreciative for your help. I promise that I will not have a lot of paperwork, but if I bring you one form, would you be willing to look at it with me and see if it is something you might be able to fill out?”

Doctor: “Yes. I will fill out that form with you.”


LEARN MORE

💮  The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability 

💮  How to Have Doctor Visits That Create Accurate Records

💮 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

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

  1. Thanks for the help. I have been diagnosed with ALS and started with a cane then a walker. Now I’m looking for a wheelchair. Hopefully it will be approved.

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  2. I’m gonna start the process at my next Dr. appointment. I hope to get things started. Thank you for yhe information. 😬😊

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  3. Accepting that I am disabled was challenging, especially as a person who always prided herself as so productive and so competent. I’ve learned to adjust to a “new” competency and to redefine what “productive” really means to a disabled person.

    As a person with multiple invisible disabilities, I do not shy away from calling myself disabled even though our culture not only discourages us from being real and honest about our struggles but also because we come up against stigma everywhere. Thank you for always encouraging us with your insightful and informative posts!!

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  4. This was the hardest thing for me, trying to tell myself I’ve done everything I can to live a normal life. Even as so many diagnoses were on my chart, more meds than I can handle, I still felt emotionally I wasn’t disabled. A couple of therapy sessions later and I filled out the questionnaire. 7 months later, I was approved.

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