A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine might be the most interesting thing I have read about Social Security disability in a long time. As you know, Social Security recently changed the way in which they evaluate
disability cases. They now require more medical documentation of alleged impairments. The thinking behind this change seems to be that if a Social Security disability applicant was really suffering, she would be frequently getting medical treatment.
A Reasonable Assumption. . . But, Is It True?
That is a reasonable assumption, but it turns out that linking the amount of medical care to the severity of the medical problem might not be as logical as it seems. The researchers at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine could not establish a direct causal link between how badly impaired a person was and how often she saw a doctor.
Many Reasons Why A Person Cannot Get Medical Care
The report found several reasons why even a severely-impaired applicant might not seek medical care. These include physical access to services, finding doctors who take the applicant's health insurance, and the availability of medical care in the region
where the applicant lives.
In addition, for a lot of people with chronic conditions, there is not much point in going to the doctor only to be told that there is nothing that doctor can do. I see this often in migraine and seizure cases. People suffering from these conditions tell me that they don't see the sense in going to an emergency room and waiting for 6-8 hours when there is no meaningful treatment available.
Time To Rethink The Approach?
This is a big deal. I have read in countless unfavorable decisions that the applicant could not be as bad off as she claimed due to lack of visits to clinics and doctors. This new study finds that the link between medical problems and medical care could be illusory. If this thesis is borne out, it suggests that Social Security might need to rethink how they evaluate Social Security disability claims.