Disabling medical symptoms can be chronic and unrelenting, or they can be recurring symptoms which cause challenges only when they are present. Recurring or episodic symptoms are those that come and go. If these symptoms are severe enough to interrupt competitive when they occur and they occur with sufficient frequency and duration, they are considered disabling by most disability attorneys. If one or more of your medical impairments is episodic in nature, it is important to document how often these symptoms occur and how long they last when they occur.
Important episodic symptoms may include recurring headaches, seizures, dizzy spells, falls, loss of vision, chest pain, hallucinations or panic attacks. These are some examples; however, episodic symptoms can be caused by a wide variety of medical impairments. Some medical conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety Disorders and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, have symptoms which may flare up and intensify from time to time by their nature. Medical problems that cause frequent and urgent visits to the restroom should also be documented. Bad days with regard to depression or chronic pain can also prevent a person from leaving home and reporting to work on those days. Contact a disability attorney for a more comprehensive list of medical impairments that often make one eligible for Social Security disability.
Typically symptoms which prevent a person from attending work two or more days per month will prevent a person from sustaining competitive work and be sufficient to support a disability claim. Such absenteeism, especially if unpredictable and unscheduled, is not tolerated by most employers. Even if you can report to work, symptoms which cause excessive or unscheduled breaks can interfere with productivity to the point a person is prevented from sustaining competitive work. Ordinarily, a full-time worker is allowed a 15-minute break in the morning, 30 minutes for lunch, and a 15-minute break in the afternoon. These are typically fixed, scheduled breaks. Even one extra daily break of 15 to 30 minutes, especially if unscheduled, may preclude a person from working in a competitive workplace.
A Disability Attorney’s Advice on Documenting Symptoms
Reporting symptoms to your doctor, including how often you experience them, is certainly important. However, it is also wise to keep a log or diary of episodic symptoms. This can be done using a pre-printed form provided by your doctor or a disability attorney at RGG Law, or even in a simple notebook which can be later copied and shared. A real-time log, regarding the frequency and duration of such symptoms, is often more convincing than vague estimates provided in testimony. Certainly, the log or diary can help establish a more accurate estimate of the average frequency and duration of such symptoms. Any credible disability attorney will tell you that such documentation is a boost to the credibility of anyone alleging episodic symptoms.
For those who lose consciousness or become disoriented with their symptoms, such as those with seizures or severe panic attacks, the help of friends or family in maintaining such a log or diary is useful.
In addition to using such a log or diary as evidence in your disability case, such information should be shared with your doctor and disability attorney. Such detailed information will not only help your case but also assist with diagnosis or treatment. Doctors may observe meaningful patterns in symptoms which provide insight as to their cause.
For more than one reason, therefore, keeping a health journal or symptom log of some kind makes good sense, both for purposes of treatment and for winning a disability case.