Social Security Disability appeals can be arduous. They often take an incredibly long time to process.
The questions asked by medical experts and judges can leave you confused, and to top it all off, you’re expected to remember minute details about a condition that has been plaguing you for years (by the time you actually get to talk to a judge).
A very simple thing you can do today that can really make a big difference in your claim or appeal is to start keeping a disability Journal.
Here are 4 easy steps you can follow to create a disability journal today.
Recording Everything About Your Illness or Injury
You may think your illness/injury is pretty straightforward and that it doesn’t need further explanation; however, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone should or does understand your condition(s). Your best bet is to do your best to capture the actual impacts your injuries or illnesses manifest in your life and let that description tell your story. In this way, you can add more than a diagnostic description to your condition, you can tell a story in your own words of how you’re affected every single day.
To start off, your disability journal should include the date, time, and duration of any barriers or challenges. For instance, an episode of pain or seizures, etc. It should also include the level of severity for pain, seizures, or other barriers and include the time of the day and/or how frequently you experienced it.
Make sure to note down what, if any, triggers may have caused pain, anxiety, or other issues. Specific foods, times of day, proximity to people, activities, sounds, and stress are all common triggers, but many others exist and this is not even close to an exhaustive list.
Some illnesses or injuries can be hard to explain so don’t worry about getting things perfect, just try to give it your best shot to describe your situation as you live it, and the true impact of your injuries or illnesses will become apparent to any non-biased reader of your journal.
Including Your Medication in Descriptions of Your Barriers
Many, maybe most, medical conditions involve medication at some point. Certain medications can cause side effects such as drowsiness, diarrhea, disorientation, hallucination, etc. These side effects can prove to be positive or negative with respect to their impact on your life. Regardless, include it in your disability journal. If you can’t drive due to drowsiness, put it down. How does that make you feel, sad? Write about it. One of the things many people miss discussing in claims for Social Security disability is the issue of side effects due to the medication they’re taking to cope with their injury or illness. It’s all related, and you are doing yourself a disservice by not sharing the entire impact of your condition if you don’t talk about this.
Sometimes medications can be confusing or hard to differentiate in describing them to others. One trick might be to tape a copy of your medication label in your disability journal. By doing this, you’ll have a record of what was prescribed, and when you took it. That could come in handy at a later date when someone asks about medications you took in the past. You’ll also be able to look at how they affected you, how often those medications had an impact, and what – if anything- you were able to do to cope with the barriers they (the medication) presented.
Being Honest in Your Disability Journal
It may seem awkward at times to keep such a detailed disability journal of your condition(s). One of the biggest surprises people find is that things they didn’t think happened a lot, actually, pop up on a daily basis. And other things: aches and other pains aren’t as common as they seem. This can be a really tempting time to elaborate, exaggerate, and stretch the truth a little. Be careful you don’t fall into that temptation. We promise you if you keep a record of your challenges it’s going to tell a far more compelling story if it’s accurate to your situation than it will if it contains false information.
You don’t have to exaggerate your condition. You’re not able to work because of it, your condition! That’s the barrier. This journal will help you to describe it, detail it, and record it. But if you’re not honest in using the journal, you’ll never be able to use it as an effective tool if someone takes a critical look at it.
Stay true to yourself and you don’t have to worry about telling different stories to different people.
Keeping Your Disability Journal Up to Date
For something like a disability journal to be helpful, it’s got to be updated on a regular basis. You can get to the point that it’s a habit to do the journal – it only takes a month or so to reach that point. It’s certainly plausible that even this idea might take some effort – if your conditions include injuries to your hands, for instance. Or from being able to move across the room to access your notes. If these are the cases, you can do videos on your cell phone or even audio recordings.
No matter how you record your day-to-day, if you keep adding the life impacts of your injuries or illnesses, your final case will be much stronger. Help yourself to help yourself.