Advice for Disability Applicants: Follow Your Doctor’s Orders

The Social Security law defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (work for pay) due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which lasts for 12 continuous months or more. There must be documented medical proof of the condition and the condition must be so severe that you cannot work at any job, not just the job you are trained to do or have always done. The medical proof exists in the medical records from your doctor or mental health provider.

Under Social Security Act SSR-18 3p, the burden is on the claimant to follow a doctor’s orders when deciding who is awarded disability benefits. Under the Act, an individual who meets the requirements to receive disability benefits will not be entitled to receive those benefits if the individual fails to follow the prescribed treatment that would restore his or her health. Prescribed treatment means any medication, surgery, therapy, medical equipment or assistive devices that are recommended by a doctor. The lack of insurance or the inability to pay for treatment is taken into consideration, but the claimant must prove they have tried to get free or subsidized healthcare from a clinic or provider. Intense fear of surgery by the claimant alone is not enough to justify the refusal of treatment unless the individual’s doctor provides a written statement saying the patient’s fear is a serious block to having surgery. If you have a negative reaction to a medication or other treatment, contact your doctor to discuss the reaction and if there is an alternative treatment.

Remember, working with your doctor or healthcare provider is imperative to a good outcome. Medical noncompliance can cause you to lose your case. So, follow your doctor’s orders! If you have any questions, call Ann Tycer at 615-256-8880 or email her at