Those who suffer mental impairments often find themselves facing more than just the insurance company or government program standing in their way of getting crucial benefits. Often it’s your treating psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health doctor who seems to be working against your mental disability claim.
It is important your claim has the support of the doctors who have treated you. Treatment providers are the main source of information about your level of function and work-related abilities. Their endorsement (or lack of it) is a key component upon which Social Security or an insurance company weighs their decision that your impairment disables you from working.
With your treating doctor’s support, your mental disability claim has a powerful foundation of evidence. By going the extra step to provide supportive medical opinions, fill out mental disability questionnaires and forms, submit treatment notes and clinical observations, or furnish a mental RFC assessment, your physician helps to certify your level of disability.
However, you may find that your doctor is unwilling to provide this endorsement. This can be dismaying when you have so much riding on the approval of Social Security Disability Insurance or long term disability insurance benefits.
But what is really going on?
The truth is, a psychiatrist or other mental health treatment provider often faces certain risks as a consequence of supporting a patient’s mental disability claim.
For better understanding, we will explain from a professional point of view the realities involved with psychiatric-based disability claims – and how to resolve the problem.
The most important thing to remember is, your mental health doctor’s purpose is to advocate for your improvement as their patient; to bring you to the highest possible level of function and mental health.
Four Reasons Your Doctor Might Not Support Your Mental Disability Claim
The following examples show why mental health professionals might withhold their support of a disability claim.*
*Every mental health claim is a complex and very unique situation. The realities always are due to the facts of the case.
1) Is the label of “disabled” really in their patient’s best interest?
The psychiatrist may be working to reduce a patient’s counterproductive feelings such as dependence, isolation, apathy, and inadequacy. In some cases, a doctor will find that encouraging productivity and possibly returning to work is in the best interest of the patient, rather than reinforcing the notion of incapacity.
Your doctor may be concerned that your daily structure, independence, and sense of purpose may suffer and that social skills and sense of identity maintained through employment and being around others in the workplace may be weakened.
Therefore, giving signed statements to the SSA or the insurance company that their patient is psychiatrically disabled—is at odds with their responsibilities to the patient. Designating a person as “disabled” would be against their purpose of treatment to improve mental health and functioning.
2) Misperception in their Field of Mental Health
Besides protecting a patient’s best interests, mental health doctors may wish to protect themselves from being perceived within their profession as one who rewards inactivity and dependency.
3) Treating Psychiatrist versus Forensic Psychiatrist? It’s Hard to Play Both Roles
When a treating psychiatrist is asked to support his or her patient’s claim for disability benefits, roles change. The clinical “treater” now becomes the objective disability “evaluator” regarding financial resources.
There is tension between advocating for the mental health and fitness of a patient versus depicting a claimant’s impairments objectively in a mental disability claim for financial benefits. This may also lead to ethics-related issues in certain cases.
As the evaluator, the doctor is also being asked to apply forensic methodology and legalities they are likely not familiar with. He or she must now apply the statutory definitions of disability, interact with attorneys, and possibly provide court testimony.
4) An Ongoing and Expensive Administrative Burden
Completing paperwork and forms takes time away from the psychiatrist’s practice. This can be a negative return on investment, even if the doctor charges for the time. He or she will likely be asked on a continuing basis to confirm the patient’s disability.
In cases where the disability insurance claim is denied, doctors may not want to subject themselves to the possibility of being tied up in lengthy litigation.
How a Disability Lawyer Can Help
We find that a little interaction and education often helps a client’s treating doctor reconsider and agree to provide vital support needed for your claim.
We are able to work with treating physicians and therapists to help them understand the “standard for disability” as it applies to claims for mental health disorders. We help them see the real, every day duties of their patient’s (and our client’s) occupation, and how to properly document the way each mental condition impedes their ability to perform those and other tasks.
We are often able to resolve a psychiatrist’s concerns when asked to provide an RFC assessment. Our legal team follows up regularly with the doctor’s office to see to it that all medical records are provided on time and in order.
What If Your Doctor Is Firm In His or Her Decision to Withhold Support?
This is not uncommon. By enlisting the support of third-party psychiatric consultants experienced in forensic psychiatry and functional assessment, we bolster your case for benefits. These mental health professionals are equipped with the skills, training, and education necessary to clarify the severity and functional impact of mental health disabilities.
Our Attorneys Can Help with Your Mental Disability Claim
If you or a loved one are unable to work due to mental health issues, trust your case to a disability lawyer with a record of success, professional responsibility, and compassion. We are mindful of each client’s clinical well-being.
Whether you are filing an initial claim, or have already been denied benefits, we can help.
Arrange a free consultation with us today. We assist clients seeking disability benefits for all manner of mental disorders and impairments, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders, including phobias and panic attacks
- Severe depression
- Psychological side effects of necessary medications