Disability lawyers in Greensboro NC agree that Social Security disability benefit claimants who fail to cooperate with their doctors and follow their prescribed medical treatments may pay a penalty of denial of their claims for “treatment noncompliance,” which can support findings that they could work if they took their medicine, had the surgery, or otherwise followed the treatment plans prescribed by their treating doctors. For this reason, it is important for claimants to follow their prescribed courses of treatment to the extent possible to avoid this disqualification issue.
DENIAL OF DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR NONCOMPLIANCE
According to our disability lawyers in Greensboro NC, failure to follow prescribed treatment, take prescribed medication, or undergo recommended surgery may forfeit Social Security or supplemental security income disability benefits when four circumstances are present:
- An impairment prevents the claimant from doing any substantial gainful activity.
- An impairment has lasted or will last at least 12 months or probably will last until death.
- The treating doctor has prescribed treatment that would restore the ability to perform full-time work.
- The claimant has refused to follow the treating doctor’s prescribed treatment.
Several points are important to remember. The doctor who treats the claimant, not a consultant nor a Disability Determination Services doctor, must prescribe the treatment or medication. Treatment instructions must be more specific than general lifestyle advice. General advice to lose weight, stop smoking, and get more exercise does not amount to prescribed treatment. Failure to follow advice to cease and desist from abusing drugs and alcohol, however, could have some impact on a disability claim.
The prescribed treatment or medication must be a proven effective restorative remedy for lost ability to do full-time work. It must be able to make the decisive difference between ability to work lost and ability restored. In the view of disability lawyers in Greensboro NC, a minor departure or deviation from the prescribed treatment is usually not enough to forfeit a Social Security disability claim.
JUSTIFIABLE FAILURE TO FOLLOW TREATMENT
If Social Security determines that the four circumstances for forfeiture are present, disability lawyers nevertheless say the agency will not deny the disability claim if the claimant justifies the decision not to follow treatment. There are several situations in which the claimant’s conduct will not call for forfeiture of benefits:
- The prescribed medical treatment violates the claimant’s religious beliefs. For this justification, Social Security requires a statement of claimant religious affiliation and evidence of church membership. The claimant must show that the prescribed medical treatment contravenes religious teachings; a statement from a religious spokesman or authority usually satisfies this requirement. Because the fact that medical treatment violates the beliefs of Christian Scientists is so notorious, disability lawyers in Greensboro NC say adherents to that faith need no extrinsic evidence to prove this point.
- The prescribed treatment conflicts with the advice of another treating doctor. Claimants with more than one treating source sometimes have doctors who might disagree on the need for a surgical procedure or on which medication would be most effective. Such disagreements generally justify refusal to follow prescribed treatment.
- The claimant cannot pay the cost of the prescribed treatment or medication, and there are no lower-cost alternatives reasonably available. Social Security will not find this argument persuasive unless the claimant shows exhaustion of all subsidized clinic, charitable care, public assistance, and Medicaid options.
- The prescribed treatment would amputate an extremity.
- A very extreme fear of surgery. Social Security accepts this justification rarely and only if professional mental healthcare providers document the phobia in detail.
- The treating doctor prescribes surgery so hazardous as to be way beyond ordinary, unavoidable risks. Open-heart surgeries, organ transplants, and experimental procedures are extremely risky. Refusal to submit to any of them is not likely to forfeit a disability claim.
- Mental illness manifested by the failure to follow prescribed medical treatment. Because this argument is most persuasive from a treating psychiatrist, the claimant should request an opinion for Social Security on this point.
These common justifications are not exhaustive. If claimants do not cooperate with treating doctors on prescribed treatment but can prove justification, Social Security still may approve their claims.
Talk to Disability Lawyers in Greensboro NC
Disability is a finding that only Social Security can make. From extensive experience and knowledge of how Social Security makes that finding, disability lawyers can analyze claimant situations and put together the strongest cases for the best results.
No two claims are alike. Often only the most obviously disabled claimants win awards of benefits on their initial applications. But although Social Security turns down 65 percent of initial applicants, 50 percent of those who appeal ultimately win benefits because skilled and experienced disability lawyers look objectively at their clients’ cases for strengths and weaknesses and present them to Social Security clearly and convincingly.
Preparing for clients cases with the best chances for success is what the Bridgman Law Offices do best. Call (336) 365-4530 or toll-free 877-330-4817 today for a free case consultation and evaluation with disability lawyers in Greensboro NC.