How to Talk to Your Doctor About Disability

As you prepare your application for long-term disability (LTD) benefits, you’ll quickly realize how important your doctors’ opinions are to your claim. Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable discussing their disability with their doctors and avoid these crucial conversations.

In this article, Bryant Legal Group suggests some ways you can broach the topics of your disability and functional capacity with your doctor. Keep reading to learn more.

Your Doctors’ Opinions Carry Significant Weight in a Long-Term Disability Claim

When you apply for long-term or short-term disability, you will have to outline your limitations and why they prevent you from working full time. However, you’ll need more than your word to convince an insurance adjuster that you’re eligible for LTD. You will also need to provide strong evidence that supports your claims. Your physicians’ medical records and statements are essential to your claim.

For example, these reports can:

  • Track your medical conditions’ progression over time
  • Identify when your conditions became disabling
  • Document your reported symptoms and their severity
  • Substantiate your limitations with objective test results — such as MRIs, CT scans, EMGs, and bloodwork
  • Outline your restrictions and functional capacity

This is especially true if you have been seeing your doctor for a long time or if they’re a respected specialist.

However, many of us find discussions about disability, limitations, and our symptoms incredibly difficult. Too often, we resort to telling our doctors that our conditions are “the same as ever” or that “we’re doing just fine.” Rather than sugar coat your symptoms or provide evasive answers, it’s always best to be candid with your medical providers.

4 Ways You Can Bring Up Disability With Your Doctors

Before you apply for long-term disability, you and your lawyer should understand the strength of your medical records and overall claim. At some point, you’ll probably need to discuss your future and ability to work with your doctor.

It’s worth noting that staying positive can help your case. Doctors are always concerned about malingering or when a patient exaggerates their symptoms for financial gain. If you start your discussion with “I need you to say I’m disabled” rather than “Should I file for disability?”  or “Do you think I can work safely?” you might trigger red flags with your physicians.

Here are some simple ways you can start a conversation about disability with your doctors.

1. Show Them Your Disability Journal

We encourage our clients to keep a disability journal that tracks their symptoms and limitations. This information can give your doctor deep insight into your daily struggle and help refine their opinions.

Before you apply for disability, you may want to sit down with your doctor and show them your journal. Then, you can ask them if they think that your reported symptoms would allow you to work full time.

2. Ask for Work Restrictions

Sometimes, a doctor will be uncomfortable completing a disability form but may be willing to outline precautions or limitations that you’d need at work. These restrictions could still help you document your disability.

For example, suppose your doctor notes that you’ll need to take unscheduled rest breaks as needed throughout the day. Most employers cannot accommodate this type of restriction.

Or suppose your orthopedic specialist notes that you cannot lift more than a file folder and need to sit and stand as needed. At the same time, your psychologist indicates that your depression and anxiety prevent you from doing more than simple tasks, and that you may be off-task for significant periods of the workday. When put together, these restrictions may be disabling.

3. Explain Your Plan’s Definition of Disability

Not every insurance plan defines “disability” in the same way. Typically, there are two forms:

  • Any occupation: you cannot perform any work
  • Own occupation: you cannot perform your job

You may have an easier time talking to your doctor about your ability to do your occupation rather than any occupation.

However, even an “any occupation” plan may include additional limitations. For example, many policies state that you are eligible for benefits if you are unable to perform “gainful employment.” In the disability insurance world, “gainful employment” is typically tied to your past earnings.

If you need help understanding your insurance plan’s definition of disability, refer to your Summary Plan Description (SPD) or consult with an experienced disability insurance lawyer.

 4. Ask Your Disability Insurance Lawyer for Help

If you’re not comfortable initiating a conversation about disability with your doctor, you should ask your lawyer for help. At Bryant Legal Group, we understand these conversations can be difficult, so we’re happy to help our clients sort through their complex medical and legal issues.

RELATED ARTICLE: Own Occupation vs. Any Occupation Definitions of Disability


What Happens If My Doctor Refuses to Support My Disability Claim?

Sometimes, a doctor’s refusal to support a disability claim can feel like a violation of trust. You’ve been vulnerable and asked for help only to be turned away. We understand how that can be hurtful. However, you cannot force your doctor into supporting your LTD claim.

While it’s difficult, try to understand the doctor’s perspective. Some physicians simply don’t want to get involved in disability claims. Others feel like it’s outside their area of expertise and want to focus on the healing arts rather than insurance forms.

If this happens to you, don’t panic. Instead, talk to an experienced disability insurance lawyer. Your attorney might suggest ways to supplement your medical records by using medical experts, functional capacity examinations, and other tools.

You also shouldn’t start doctor shopping — at least until your lawyer suggests you get a second opinion. If your records show a pattern of switching doctors in search of the “right” evidence, it will likely damage your credibility with the insurance company and the courts.

Bryant Legal Group: Respected Chicago Disability Lawyers

Bryant Legal Group’s disability insurance lawyers have decades of cumulative experience handling short-term and long-term disability claims. If you’re considering an LTD claim, it’s time to schedule an appointment with one of our respected attorneys. Please call 312-561-3010 or complete this brief online form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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