What Most Doctors Don’t Know About Social Security Disability – And The SSA Doesn’t Tell You!

I had a follow-up doctor’s appointment a while back. I told him about the last two months health-wise, and brought him up-to-date with my most recent Social Security Disability Hearing and told him that it probably wasn’t looking good for me… Again. As usual, he couldn’t understand why I was still fighting; and then we continued on with my appointment.

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I was about to leave the room and something popped up in my head (I love how my brain works now). I stopped, and asked him if he ‘knew of a form I read about online that Social Security apparently wants from doctors. That for some (ridiculous) reason, the SSA doesn’t really give too much weight to short letters written from the doctor; but this “Residual Functioning Capacity” form (linked below) is pretty important… Apparently, it can be the deciding factor in some cases?’

I don’t think my brain said it as eloquently when I spoke, but luckily he understands me–even when I babble and slur.

It turned out though, that he didn’t really know anything about this form (he ‘thinks he heard of it’, he claimed, but asked me to send him a copy)! I can’t blame him for not really knowing about it honestly. A doctor’s word should matter to the courts when it comes to treating and supporting his or her patient–and Social Security should use any records or letters put into evidence, as long as they detail the diagnoses and note whether or not they consider the patient permanently disabled.

But if a doctor’s letter doesn’t entirely count as far as the SSA is concerned, why hasn’t this practice been changed?

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What concerns me is how many doctors don’t seem to know about this form (or how to file for Disability). They believe Social Security should take their word as gold that their patient is permanently disabled. But Social Security is basically stating, ‘Your letter and word as a physician isn’t enough, we want you to fill out an eight page form explaining, in detail, what their disability entails’.

With today’s technology, why can’t someone contact the doctor if they have any further questions (beyond the medical records)? Wouldn’t it be better to have a more personal account of a patient rather than make them fill out a detailed, “Can your patient lift 5/10/20 pounds on a regular basis – if so/not, please explain” form.

Instead, everyone’s fate rests on the hand of the SSA’s expert medical witness’ testimony (whom may or may not specialize in your illness(es)) by reading only the doctor’s notes–yet not hearing from the patient themselves. Therefore, they are basing their opinions on medical records that may or may not be detailed and complete.

Can you imagine the scores of people that keep getting denied Social Security and are constantly struggling, becoming homeless, and even dying because this ONE FORM wasn’t filled out by doctors–most likely because they didn’t know that it existed in the first place? (Note: When I tried finding it through the Social Security Website, I kept getting a “404 Error” message every time I tried to reach the page – It does exist though – see below for the link!).

PLEASE, everyone, SHARE this page! Tell your friends that are fighting, or about to start their fight, for their Disability benefits to print out the RFC form linked below–and make sure your doctor gets a copy. Have them share it with their colleagues!

Help stop this insanity!
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There’s so much I would have loved to have known when I became ill enough to be ultimately forced to apply for Disability. I truly hope that this helps someone so they don’t have to go through what I have… and still am because of poor medical treatment and recordkeeping.

I eventually began searching online, rather than the SSA website for the form, and finally found a copy that can be printed out HERE (pdf version). I’m hoping that doctors will start hearing more about the RFC form–and start helping their patients with disabilities win their Disability fight in a timely manner by filling it out.

I’m hoping even more that Social Security catch up to the times and realize that today’s doctors aren’t old school like Social Security still is (Come on, the system has barely changed since 1935–Over eighty years!). Doctors just don’t have time with the amount of patients they have to take care of today to fill out eight-page reports. Detailed notes (including via telephone) and detailed record keeping should be able to properly show a patient’s health status without question; while a patient’s testimony should be taken strongly into consideration–especially if a case lasts longer than five years.

No one should have to wait more than five years for their benefits.

Both the Social Security System and the medical industry need to create a simpler system that both can work with, so people that are truly disabled get their benefits in a more timely, and less stressful manner.

It is our money after all.

Until the laws get changed though, get that RFC form to your doctor’s office and ask them to fill it out along with your Disability application.

Good luck!!!

In case you missed it, click the link for access to the SSA’s RFC form: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms/images/SSA4/G-SSA-4734-U8-1.pdf

Depression Causes, Risks, and What Not To Say To Someone Living With It

Causes and Risk Factors For Depression

  • Loneliness
  • Lack of social support
  • Recent stressful life experiences
  • Family history of depression
  • Marital or relationship problems
  • Financial strain
  • Early childhood trauma or abuse
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Unemployment or underemployment
  • Health problems or chronic pain

Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are not always easy to make, but they can have a big impact on depression. Lifestyle changes that can be very effective include:

  • Cultivating supportive relationships
  • Getting regular exercise and sleep
  • Eating healthfully to naturally boost mood
  • Finding an enjoyable hobby
  • Managing stress
  • Practicing relaxation techniques
  • Challenging negative thought patterns

What are the types of depression?

Depression comes in many shapes and forms. The different types of depression have unique symptoms, causes, and effects. Knowing what type of depression you have can help you manage your symptoms and get the most effective treatment.

Major depression

Major depression is characterized by the inability to enjoy life and experience pleasure. The symptoms are constant, ranging from moderate to severe. Left untreated, major depression typically lasts for about six months. Some people experience just a single depressive episode in their lifetime, but more commonly, major depression is a recurring disorder. However, there are many things you can do to support your mood and reduce the risk of recurrence.

Dysthymia (recurrent, mild depression)

Dysthmia is a type of chronic “low-grade” depression. More days than not, you feel mildly or moderately depressed, although you may have brief periods of normal mood. The symptoms of dysthymia are not as strong as the symptoms of major depression, but they last a long time (at least two years). These chronic symptoms make it very difficult to live life to the fullest or to remember better times. Some people also experience major depressive episodes on top of dysthymia, a condition known as “double depression.” If you suffer from dysthymia, you may feel like you’ve always been depressed. Or you may think that your continuous low mood is “just the way you are.” However, dysthymia can be treated, even if your symptoms have gone unrecognized or untreated for years.

Bipolar Disorder: When Depression is Just One Side of the Coin

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is characterized by cycling mood changes. Episodes of depression alternate with manic episodes, which can include impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, rapid speech, and little to no sleep. Typically, the switch from one mood extreme to the other is gradual, with each manic or depressive episode lasting for at least several weeks. When depressed, a person with bipolar disorder exhibits the usual symptoms of major depression. However, the treatments for bipolar depression are very different. In fact, antidepressants can make bipolar depression worse.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): When winter brings the blues

While the onset of winter can cause many of us to experience a drop in mood, some people actually develop seasonal depression, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD can make you feel like a completely different person to who you are in the summer: hopeless, sad, tense, or stressed, with no interest in friends or activities you normally love. While a less common form of the disorder causes depression during the summer months, SAD usually begins in fall or winter when the days become shorter and remains until the brighter days of spring or early summer.

The cause of your depression helps determine the treatment

Understanding the underlying cause of your depression may help you overcome the problem. For example, if you are depressed because of a dead end job, the best treatment might be finding a more satisfying career, not taking an antidepressant. If you are new to an area and feeling lonely and sad, finding new friends at work or through a hobby will probably give you more of a mood boost than going to therapy. In such cases, the depression is remedied by changing the situation.

Ask for help and support

If even the thought of tackling your depression seems overwhelming, don’t panic. Feeling helpless and hopeless is a symptom of depression—not the reality of your situation. It does not mean that you’re weak or you can’t change! The key to depression recovery is to start small and ask for help. The simple act of talking to someone face to face about how you feel can be an enormous help. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to fix you; he or she just needs to be a good listener.

Having a strong support system will speed your recovery. Isolation fuels depression, so reach out to others, even if you feel like being alone or don’t want to feel like a burden to others. The truth is that most people will be happy that you chose to confide in them; they’ll be flattered that you trust them enough to open up. So, let your family and friends know what you’re going through and how they can support you.

Be concerned if your loved one…

  • Doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore.
  • Is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody.
  • Has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities.
  • Talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless.”
  • Expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life.
  • Frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain.
  • Complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.
  • Has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.
  • Sleeps less than usual or oversleeps.
  • Eats more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.
  • Has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and “out of it.”
  • Drinks more or abuses drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers.

If your friend or family member resists getting help for depression:

  • Suggest a general check-up with a physician. Your loved one may be less anxious about seeing a family doctor than a mental health professional. A regular doctor’s visit is actually a great option, since the doctor can rule out medical causes of depression. If the doctor diagnoses depression, he or she can refer your loved one to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, this “professional” opinion makes all the difference.
  • Offer to help your depressed loved one find a doctor or therapist and go with them on the first visit. Finding the right treatment provider can be difficult, and is often a trial-and-error process. For a depressed person already low on energy, it is a huge help to have assistance making calls and looking into the options.
  • Encourage the person to make a thorough list of symptoms and ailments to discuss with the doctor. You can even bring up things that you have noticed as an outside observer, such as, “You seem to feel much worse in the mornings,” or “You always get stomach pains before work.”

The risk of suicide is real – What to do in a crisis situation

If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone.

In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

In other countries, call your country’s emergency services number or visit IASP to find a suicide prevention helpline.

It may be hard to believe that the person you know and love would ever consider something as drastic as suicide, but a depressed person may not see any other way out. Depression clouds judgment and distorts thinking, causing a normally rational person to believe that death is the only way to end the pain he or she is feeling.

When someone is depressed, suicide is a very real danger. It’s important to know the warning signs:

  • Talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate
  • Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways
  • Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye
  • Seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects
  • Sudden sense of calm after a depression

If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, talk to him or her about your concerns as soon as possible. Many people feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic but it is one of the best things you can do for someone who is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a person’s life, so speak up if you’re concerned and seek professional help immediately!