Law Office of Jennifer Zorrilla

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Medical records may not be enough for SSD benefits

For people in California who cannot work due to a disability, Social Security Disability benefits can be crucial to making ends meet and surviving. However, in order to obtain SSD benefits successfully, many people must go through a lengthy, complex process, especially following an initial denial. In order to make a successful claim for disability benefits, people must often submit a substantial amount of documentary evidence that backs up their claims about their limitations. Medical records are a key area of required documents for applicants because they indicate a professional diagnosis as well as the onset of the disability.

However, in most cases, medical records alone do not illustrate the types of limitations often considered by the Social Security Administration when determining disability benefits. They refer to conditions, treatments and symptoms, but they are less likely to discuss functional limitations such as difficulty standing or walking for a specific period of time. In most cases, however, the SSA relies far more on those types of documented limitations than on the diagnoses recorded. This information can help disability examiners determine whether a person can return to previous work or perform a different job.

If the medical records themselves do not provide information about functional limitations beyond diagnoses, treatment and symptoms, patients may ask for a letter from their treating physicians to submit as part of their Social Security Disability application. These letters, called medical source statements, can provide more substantive information than many traditional medical records. However, they often become most important only at the disability hearing level, on appeal after an initial denial.

Many people who need SSD benefits and meet all of the requirements for eligibility still face claims denials after their initial application. A disability law attorney may help applicants to navigate the system and pursue an appeal through the disability hearing process.

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