At The Bailey Law Office in Murphysboro, Illinois, I have a few words of wisdom that I find myself sharing with my Social Security Disability Insurance clients on a regular basis. Here is one of the top ten most frequent nuggets:
"Be an active member of your own healthcare team!"
So what exactly does that mean?
Here are a few examples:
- asking your doctor questions,
- understanding your lab tests and radiology results,
- telling your doctor if your health is not improving,
- making sure you received the correct medicine at the pharmacy,
- making sure all your doctors know all the medicines you take,
- asking how much a procedure is going to cost,
- asking about the risks and benefits of a recommended treatment,
- asking your surgeon if there were any complications during the surgery,
- reporting all your symptoms and side effects, and
- asking what your treatment alternatives are.
Doctors are not gods. Your body is not an object in a scientific experiment. You are the one that will have to live with the results of the medical care you receive. By communicating with your doctors and nurses and PA’s you will help them slow down a little bit and treat you as an individual, not a chart.
When you ask questions, you are showing your respect for the knowledge, training, and experience of all the other members of your health care team.
You don’t feel awkward asking questions when you take your car in for service, when you take your dog to the vet, or when you shop for a major appliance. So why do we feel awkward asking questions when we are in the doctor’s office? It is probably because we realize that they know so much more than we do about medicine and we realize that they only have a certain amount of time allotted for each clinic visit. That doesn’t mean you should keep silent when you have an important question or observation.
Being actively involved and aware in your medical treatment can also help you be an active member of the legal team handling your Social Security Disability Insurance claim.
Here are three key ways to be a good member of your healthcare team and your legal team and ultimately win your Social Security Disability Insurance claim.
1. Make your doctor visits, medical tests, specialist referrals and therapy appointments a priority.
We all have a little bit of chaos in our lives - from unexpected family emergencies to the symptoms of an illness to transportation troubles. It's not realistic to expect a person can make every single appointment. But the cold, cruel reality is that when you miss your appointments, the doctors get irritated, your care gets delayed, and ultimately, when the judge is reviewing your claim, it will look like you must not be very ill because you didn’t seem very dedicated to your treatment.
- Keep a calendar with you.
- Plan for transportation in advance.
- Alert your family members so they don’t schedule other appointments at the same time.
2. Use a little notebook to keep track of things.
When you see your doctors and when you meet with the Southern Illinois Disability attorney who is handling your Social Security disability appeal, you will be asked for crucial information. Accuracy matters. Almost complete is a recipe for disaster.
Granted, when you are ill or injured, you have a lot on your plate. Dates start to blur together. Names of doctors or medicines or procedures are hard to remember. Some medicine even affects people’s memory. But there are ways to be accurate without having a perfect memory.
The solution can be as simple as a little notebook where you jot down appointment dates, names, and questions you want to ask the next time you see your doctor.
If you forget to tell your Southern Illinois Social Security attorney about a doctor who treated you during the period of disability, no one will know to request those medical records and submit them in your claim file. If the records are not in your claim file, the judge or adjudicator will not have a chance to consider the symptoms and limitations those records might reveal.
A complete record is not only important; it is required in Social Security administrative proceedings. You and your attorney will be asked to certify that the record is complete at the hearing.
Remember that the information your Southern Illinois Social Security disability attorney asks you to supply is significant - the more information you can provide, the better I will understand how your illness or injury affects your daily life.
The better I understand your life, the more compelling my arguments on your behalf will be.
The more compelling my arguments on your behalf are, the better the chance that your legal team (that includes you!) will win your claim.
3. If you have a question, ask it!
Trust your intuition. If you have a question about the information you've provided or an event in your work history that might affect your claim, don't stay silent about it! Don't make the mistake of thinking, "It's probably nothing" or "I don't want to bother my attorney with this little question." The staff at The Bailey Law Office will listen to your question, review your file, and address your concerns. Your question might highlight an issue in your case that has a big impact on the outcome but was previously overlooked.
When you ask The Bailey Law Office to be on your legal team, you have the right to tap my knowledge, experience and insight.
Remember, no one wins if the team doesn’t win!
Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability representative.