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In a recent blog post entitled “Get It Written Down!” Chicago disability attorney Aaron Rifkind tells the story of a claim that was granted quickly due to the completeness of his client’s medical records.

I told her that it was because of her thorough medical records that we were able to win so quickly. She responded, “My records are so thorough because every time I go to the doctor, I tell him to make sure to write down everything I tell him, every complaint, and every pain I have, if you don’t do that then no one will ever know what you have.” And you know something, she is right!

One of the best things an individual can do when applying for Social Security disability benefits is to make sure that all of the complaints and medical issues are in writing.

This is an important point. Be sure to tell the doctor your symptoms, and make sure that your doctor writes them down.

Your medical records – the doctor’s treatment notes and progress notes – are maintained to keep track of your medical care, as a tool to assist your doctor with your treatment. Those notes are not created to be used for the purpose of establishing a disability claim. However, your medical records are the principal evidence for your Social Security disability claim, and the symptoms listed in your records will be used by the Social Security Administration to assess your work-related limitations.

In general, doctors do not focus on how your symptoms affect your daily activities. You should tell your doctor about your symptoms and how they affect your life. This information will help your doctor better understand your medical condition. The resulting medical record may also help your disability case, since your symptoms and their effects on your activites will end up in the doctor’s progress notes, and those notes will be used by SSA to establish your work-related limitations.

Be specific. Instead of saying to the doctor “my back hurts when I stand too long,” say “after 15 minutes of standing my back hurts so much that I have to sit down for 15 minutes.” Give the doctor some specific details to describe the effects of your medical condition. The same is true for mental limitations, such as depression or anxiety. Rather than saying “my depression is a little better (or a little worse) this month,” say “I was so depressed that I could not leave the house for 6 days last month.” Give your doctor some specifics. And make sure the doctor writes it down.