I frequently talk to clients and potential clients, who say “I am diagnosed with x, y, and z, so I cannot work.” I hear this statement almost every week.
Here is how I respond:
“Well, x, y, or z can certainly be a basis for disability. But the issue in your case, and the reason your claim for disability benefits has been denied so far, is that Social Security needs to assess the severity of your symptoms from these ailments. Your diagnosis was a necessary step, but it is just the first step. The big issue is: what are your functional limitations that result from your diagnoses, and do those functional limitations prevent gainful employment on an ongoing basis?”
Disability is functionality. Your ability to function in the workplace is the issue in your disability case.
The task for disability claimants and disability lawyers is to provide evidence of those functional limitations. Ideally, that evidence includes the patient’s medical progress notes, as well as opinions from treating physicians. Evidence can also include statements by nonmedical sources, including family and friends (see 20 C.F.R. 404.1502 (e)). Lastly, your testimony at the hearing will address your functional limitations. At the hearing judges usually want to know about your activities of daily living, so that they can infer your level of functioning from that evidence.
There are many pieces to a successful claim for disability benefits. Understand that your diagnosis is just a beginning step to establishing disability.