One important thing when someone is on Social Security Disability or is receiving SSI benefits is to keep in treatment and keep track of what medical providers you see and when you see them. You are going to come up for review every three years by the Social Security Administration and you can get yourself in big trouble. Just this past week, I had a young man I had represented a few years ago and got him benefits for his back pain and radiculopathy. Though I advised him after the hearing that he needed to continue to stay in regular treatment with a physician, he didn’t.
Like many people with chronic problems, he had been told by his doctor that there was nothing further that could be done for him and that all he could do was renew his prescriptions. As the young man was not receiving any narcotics, that meant that all he had to do was call the office every six months and the doctor would call the pharmacy with refill orders. He had not seen the doctor in nearly two years.
One terrible truth about the Social Security Administration is that they presume that if you are not in treatment with a doctor, you are doing fine. This is a silly presumption, but it is quite real. This fellow, didn’t contact me. Instead, knowing that his doctor had told him his conditions were permanent, filed his own paper work and went to an informal hearing with a representative from Disability Determinations. He was shocked when his discontinuance was affirmed. That was when he finally got around to contacting me.
Had he come to me earlier, I would have advised him to immediately schedule an appointment with his physician and get an examination. I would have met with him before the informal hearing and prepared him for the questions he would be asked. He blew an incredible opportunity because in his state, Missouri, the Disability Determinations Service has the philosophy that if there is a way to continue benefits, that is what they are supposed to do. Now the young man is going to have to wait approximately fourteen months to have a formal hearing in front of a Social Security Disability Administrative Law Judge. There are politicians putting pressure on the Social Security Administration to purge the rolls of SSDI and SSI recipients.
If you are getting benefits, the lesson is clear. Don’t just phone your doctor for refills. Make an appointment. See your physician. Tell him everything that is going on with you so that you will have medical records that document the problems you are having. If you don’t do that, you are playing with fire.