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You don't need your doctor's permission to file for disability

A lot of people who are too sick to continue working agonize over the idea of talking to their doctor and asking his or her permission to file for disability. They're often afraid of being rejected or being told that the doctor won't lend their support.

Fortunately, that's a conversation most people don't actually have to have. The rules about how Social Security regards the "treating physician" have changed in response to the fact that most people don't really have a close, personal relationship with their primary care physicians these days.

In the past, Social Security put a great deal of weight on the opinion of a claimant's treating physician. At one point, that made sense. Most people had primary care physicians or family doctors who had seen them regularly over the years. The agency reasoned, correctly, that such a physician was in a good position to judge whether or not a patient was truly disabled.

These days, however, patients change primary care doctors all the time. Their choice of doctors may be fairly limited due to the constraints of their insurance -- and many people don't have a primary care physician at all, but rely on minute clinics for most of their basic medical needs. That doesn't exactly put the primary care doctor giving a disability claimant treatment in a great position to be either advocating for or against that person's disability claim.

A disability applicant may also see several specialists -- none of whom are treating the "whole" patient. That means that none of them may be really qualified to say if a particular person is or isn't disabled -- because the claimant's whole condition has to be considered.

For example, imagine that you have emphysema, diabetes and psoriatic arthritis. You see a primary care physician once or twice a year for colds, but the majority of your care is handled by your pulmonologist, endocrinologist and rheumatologist. None of the four doctors are really qualified to speak about your total condition -- which is what matters most for the purposes of a Social Security Disability (SSD)determination.

If you have the kind of relationship with your physician that makes it possible, getting his or her support for your claim is always helpful -- but don't let the absence of that relationship stop you from filing for Social Security Disability.

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Tony Farmer & John Dreiser

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