Patients seek out doctors to provide treatment and cures, and physicians practice medicine hoping to successfully diagnose and treat people with illnesses. Contrary to those goals, however, the Social Security law requires patients and their doctors to prove that they are not doing well.
For patients, the need for financial assistance through Social Security thrusts legal and insurance issues into the doctor’s examination rooms. It asks that the doctor-patient relationship conform to bureaucratic standards. Doctors would rather be focused on signs that their treatment plan is providing relief, rather than proving disability and failure of treatment.
Many treating providers “chart for strength,” documenting each small improvement. This can be devastating to a Social Security claim if the chart does not also document continuing limitations. Unfortunately, this forces both the treating provider and the patient to focus on the negative aspects of the illness. Social Security largely relies on documented functional impairments, along with its Listing of Impairment.
If the claimant cannot work then the doctor needs to document that opinion. If the doctor feels the patient can work, or is malingering, this must be explained to the patient so that the focus can switch to treatment and the return to work. Eliminating financial stress by obtaining benefits can often allow patients to redirect their energies to recovery. Anxiety about bills and finances can sometimes exacerbate illnesses.
These benefit programs provide minimal cash assistance and more importantly, access to the health care system though Medicare and Medicaid. This continued medical care may provide opportunity for recovery and eventual return to work.