How Gaps in Medical Treatment Can Result in an Unfavorable Decision
Posted Oct 07 2008 7:18pm
Last week, I wrote a post describing a case that will be denied because of my client's poorly worded testimony. Today, I want to continue this theme and talk about a far more common basis for hearing denials - gaps in medical treatment or absence of medical treatment.
I save hearing decisions in the cases I try. Fortunately I usually choose decent cases and I don't have too many unfavorables, but not every case turns out to be a winner. Interestingly, when looking at the unfavorables as a group, certain trends emerged. Perhaps the most common thread had to do with gaps and inconsistence in medical treatment.
Here is the actual wording from one such decision in a case involving a woman with depression and anxiety:
Although the claimant's anxiety is severe, she has had no significant amount of mental health treatment. Even though she has been in the Atlanta area, she has had no psychiatric treatment. Had she obtained treatment, her anxiety would not be severe. Her husband is working, so there is no apparent reason she could not seek mental health treatment if she chooses to do so.
In this particular case, the medical record was not particularly strong and the claimant's treating doctor was unwilling to provide us with a completed functional capacity form. I find it interesting that the judge would focus on what was not there, rather than what was there. Could there be legitimate reasons why an individual would not seek mental health treatment? Is it fair to assume that the husband's insurance would cover psychological or psychiatric treatment, or that the deductibles would be affordable?
I think that the lesson to learn from cases like this relates to the need for every claimant to build a "paper trail" of medical treatment records. Judges expect you to see your doctor regularly and to seek specialized help when necessary. If you don't have a lot of money,you need to explore all options - local emergency rooms, public hospitals, free clinics. I think that the days are over when a claimant can win a hearing with a medical record that is less than an inch thick.
I am certain that there are many deserving claimants out there who truly are disabled, but who will be denied because the medical record is sparse. This may not be fair, but this is how the system works.