When I first meet a client who has applied for Disability Insurance Benefits or Supplemental Security Income, the first words of advice I give are “be sure to see your doctor”. I cannot stress to my clients how important it is to continue seeing their doctor during the disability process.
Social Security states that in order to receive Disability Insurance Benefits or Supplemental Security Income you must follow treatment prescribed by your doctor if the treatment can restore your ability to work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1530. What exactly does this mean? From my experience of attending over a thousand hearings, it means that your chances of being awarded benefits are slim to none if you are not seeing a medical professional and your condition is the type that can improve with medical attention.
But what if you cannot afford to see a doctor? Thankfully, Social Security recognizes that some people cannot afford medical treatment. Social Security issued Ruling 82-59 states that there are instances where inability to afford healthcare can excuse a claimant from seeing their doctor. It states:
“The individual is unable to afford prescribed treatment which he or she is willing to accept, but for which free community resources are unavailable. Although a free or subsidized source of treatment is often available, the claim may be allowed where such treatment is not reasonably available in the local community. All possible resources (e.g., clinics, charitable and public assistance agencies, etc.), must be explored. Contacts with such resources and the claimant’s financial circumstances must be documented.”
The key here is that all possible resources must be explored and that your contacts with all sources, as well as your financial situation must be documented. It is not enough to go before an Administrative Law Judge and tell the Judge that you tried to see a doctor. You need proof.
An attorney familiar with Social Security Disability will usually be familiar with all of the local agencies that help people with low cost medical care.