Establishing Disability for SSDI Claims Often Requires both Medical & Non-Medical Evidence

February 12th, 2016 by Attorney John Colvin

Stack of Medical Records

If you’re preparing to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance, you may already be aware that it’s a lengthy process requiring a lot of information about your health. Once you’ve gathered the appropriate documentation – treatment records, physician opinions, and results of medical tests, for example – you may assume that will be enough for Social Security claims reviewers to approve your benefits. However, reviewers may need more context. Even if you have solid proof of disability, the Social Security Administration may want details about how a disabling condition interferes with your ability to engage in work activity.

Following are some types of non-medical evidence you may be asked to submit.

Suitability for Different Jobs

Social Security will generally deny SSDI claims if they believe a claimant is capable of performing any type of work even if it differs from their previous occupation. So if your previous occupation involved standing all day, and you injured your leg, reviewers may deem that you could easily accept a less physically demanding desk job or other type of work that doesn’t require you to stand.

The problem with this assumption is that some skills are not transferable, especially if someone has worked a lifetime in the same occupation. A person over age 50 who never finished high school and has been working as a professional drill press operator since age 17 is going to have a hard time finding another job, because most employers don’t want to hire a person who has no relevant job experience. An attorney could highlight this problem by getting a written statement from a career advisor or vocational professional, stating that a person’s skills and education do not allow for other types of employment.

Spotty Work Performance

It’s not uncommon for people, who were inured at work or at home, to continue working, even when they’re in pain or unable to focus for sustained periods of time. In that scenario, a worker may exhaust all sick pay and time off, and may even lose his job due to attendance problems.

An attorney handling an SSDI claim often times is able to gather evidence from the employer or even co-workers that establishes the fact that the claimant’s condition interfered with their ability to maintain sustained gainful activity in a competitive work environment that ultimately resulted in their inability to continue working.

Showing a Change in Cognitive Function

Medical documentation may show that the claimant sustained a head injury; however, without a baseline for comparison, a doctor may be unable to say with certainty how that head injury has affected a person’s memory, cognitive ability, motor function, or activities of daily living.

One way to illustrate a substantial change in one’s brain function is to gather testimony from relatives, longtime friends, and educators. If relatives say a person used to be witty, upbeat, and have a sharp memory before sustaining a head injury, but now that person seems moody and has trouble finding the right words to describe something, such testimony coupled with cognitive testing by a clinician is a reliable indicator of brain function impairment that is often accepted by the Administration.

Cognitive testing such as MoCA and WAIS exam results in addition to IQ testing performed by a trained therapist or clinician may also play a role in proving a change in the claimant’s brain function. If available, cognitive testing before and after an accident may show significant changes.

Gathering the Evidence

People who have suffered a debilitating injury don’t necessarily have the energy or the ability to gather all the evidence they need for their SSDI claim. Family members may also be too busy and overwhelmed with taking care of the day to day needs of their loved one. That’s why it’s important to seek an attorney’s help in putting together the right evidence to support a SSDI claim. Having an attorney’s help in getting certain paperwork right the first time can help increase the chance that one’s disability claim will be approved without unnecessary denials.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama