Don't ruin your chances of a favorable appeal from Social Security with doctor's notes that suggest you may be faking a disability. Here are five behaviors to avoid at the doctor's office.
1. Exaggerating your symptoms.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, my pain is a 15."
"I lie awake every night in constant agony."
"Every day for me is a living hell."
You may think that these kinds of statements have strong meaning, but judges and doctors have heard it all before and think they are melodramatic. Grand, sweeping claims that sound overblown will not get you closer to your goal of being approved for Social Security Disability benefits. If anything, they will result in a detrimental note in your file that you have a tendency to exaggerate.
Even if you feel that these statements are true about your condition and your life, stick to the facts when you are at the doctor's office. Use this checklist as a prompt to help you focus on the facts and get an accurate diagnosis.
2. Faking symptoms for any reason.
Even if you truly believe you have a disability, faking extra symptoms to be "extra sure" your doctor will make notes in your favor will backfire. Chances are you did not win the Academy Award for Best Actor last year - meanwhile, your doctor is a trained professional with plenty of experience in deductive reasoning. Don't try it.
3. Not making an effort on physical tests.
Your doctor administers physical fitness tests to patients on a regular basis. Don't think he or she won't notice if you're not trying your best, or if you make mistakes on purpose. Your doctor may not say anything to you at the time, but you can bet he or she will make a negative note in your file. Give your best effort so that you can be evaluated accurately.
4. Requesting a drug by name.
Be very, very careful about asking for prescription drugs by name, especially if they are narcotics. Even if you know a particular drug works for you, don't argue with the doctor if he or she wants you to try a different one. The more you insist on a specific drug, the more you will look like you are drug-seeking, which is a very damaging note in your file to anyone evaluating you for a Social Security Disability insurance claim. It is best to willingly comply with your doctor's suggestions and, if you find that the new drug does not work as well, discuss it with your doctor on your next visit.
For more on this topic, see my article Patients get trapped in a Catch 22 when they need Schedule II Pain medications.
5. Talking about your disability case.
It is appropriate to let your doctor know that you are thinking about filing a Social Security Disability Insurance claim because work is becoming more and more difficult for you. It is also appropriate to let your doctor know when you have actually stopped working and filed your claim. Your doctor might tell you he or she will help by filling out forms or writing letters for you. Beyond that, you will not need to talk a lot about your disability case with your doctor. Some doctors do not understand how Social Security defines “disability” and think that very few people actually should receive benefits. Some doctors think the patient might be exaggerating for secondary gain. In any event, your doctor’s role is to examine you, order and interpret appropriate diagnostic tests, diagnose your condition, prescribe treatment and medications, and discuss your prognosis and treatment plan.
6. Crying or begging.
Medical professionals are compassionate people. But they are also used to tears. If you are emotionally overwhelmed and break down in tears at the doctor's office, your doctor will not put a negative note in your file, but don't think that it will cause him or her to suddenly take pity on you. If your doctor senses that you are attempting to gain sympathy (or if you actually beg them to give you a positive evaluation), they will have to become skeptical of you in order to do their job correctly.
Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney.