The Things You Tell Your Doctor

The things you tell your doctor about how you are doing (and what you are doing with your time) frequently end up in your medical progress notes. These progress notes provide your doctors with context and information about your condition. Anyone applying for disability needs to know that those medical notes become part of the record for your disability claim. These notes are read carefully by the people making decisions on your claim, whether that person is a disability examiner or an administrative law judge. I hate to say that you have to be careful what you tell your doctor, but you have to be careful what you tell your doctor. Because those statements made to your doctor are considered when your credibility is assessed by a decision maker. I had a hearing for recently for a claimant disabled by chronic pain. The record contained a treating doctor’s progress note stating that the patient “was helping a neighbor build an addition to his house.” Now it turns out that the claimant was knowledgable about construction, and was simply walking next door to give his neighbor advice about how to proceed. He never picked up a tool or lifted a board. There is nothing inconsistent with that activity and a finding of disability due to chronic pain; people in pain still socialize, and carry on their lives as best they can. But even when the actual facts are explained to the judge, credibility questions can remain. As a result, a case can become more difficult to win when doctors’ notes contain statements about the patient’s activities. So be careful what you say to your doctor, because...