When is it Time to Switch Doctors in My Disability Case?
The most important thing in a Social Security Disability case is to have one (or preferably more) doctors in your corner, advocating for you and your conditions. Most of the time, the doctor who has been treating you for an extended period of time is the best fit for this job. But sometimes you may find yourself in a situation when it is in your best interest to switch doctors.
Importance of Your Doctor in Determining Your Case
Social Security cases hinge on you meeting the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) definition of “disability.”
The easiest way to prove disability is by having your doctors write reports that truthfully and accurately represent your disabilities and why they prevent you from being able to work.
When preparing your case for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you or your attorney will gather this documentation from your doctors. This can include:
- Recent medical records
- A supportive statement (that is, a medical source statement)
- In some cases, an RFC form
These reports and forms explain to the Disability Determination Services or ALJ what is going on medically in your case. They explain your disability and what your condition will be in the future.
Why Switch Doctors?
Usually, you will not want to switch doctors. Your doctor knows the ins and outs of your medical condition, and you have a relationship with them. But sometimes circumstances will cause you to think about making a change.
Multiple Health Issues
Perhaps your physician cannot treat you for all the conditions for which you are claiming disability. In that case, it would be a good idea to ask your treating physician for a referral to a specialist. Someone who can get to know you, understand you, and be an additional advocate in your corner.
Your Doctor Does Not Seem Supportive
After seeing your doctor a few times, you may get the feeling that they are no longer on your side. Perhaps what they say to you and what is in their written reports are different. They may not be supportive of your claims. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but it can be very detrimental to your claim.
If you get this feeling, have a conversation with your doctor. Sometimes that is all that you need to do to resolve the issue. Or ask to review your medical records. Reading these will let you know if your feelings are misplaced or well founded.
Your Doctor is Too Busy
Because the doctor’s opinions weigh so heavily on the determination of your case, there is a need for extensive documentation. In some cases we ask that a doctor complete a rather lengthy RFC form.
A doctor that runs a busy practice may not wish to devote the time to a Social Security disability or SSI claimant’s case. Other doctors may charge a fee to fill out an RFC form or to produce documentation for your case.
If you have a hard time getting on your doctor’s calendar, or have to wait long periods between appointments, you may want to consider making a switch. Find a doctor with a smaller practice that has the time to devote to your case.
When Should You Make A Change?
As a general rule, the sooner the better to switch doctors. You need to show that you have an ongoing relationship with your doctor. You will need to be seen over a period of time, and have multiple appointments. This will establish them as your treating physician.
This will also allow the doctor the time needed to make a determination of your disability. He will have the time needed to prepare the documentation needed for your case.
Get Started on the Same Page
It is best to start off the process by having a conversation with your doctor. As soon as you know that you are going to be filing a Social Security disability claim, let you doctor know. Most will know what that entails on their part. Ask them if they have experience with these types of cases.
This way if you need to make a switch, you can do it early in the process to avoid any future delays.
Social Security disability cases can take months and sometimes years to complete. They are too hard to fight, only to find at the last moment that your doctor is not be supportive of your claim for disability benefits.