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How Can Keeping a Journal Strengthen My Claim for Disability?

April 5, 2021

disability applicant keeping a daily journal

When applying for disability benefits, one method often overlooked to help strengthen a claim is keeping a journal that details the extent of your condition and how it affects your daily life. At Dayes Law Firm, we recommend that applicants keep track of the pain, suffering and physical limitations of their disability to increase their chances of getting approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Our Phoenix Social Security Disability lawyers discuss entries to include, how often to write in your journal, and how to go about providing a detailed view of your condition. Learn more about your eligibility for disability in a free consultation. There is no obligation afterward to retain our services.

What to Include in Your Journal

Your journal should include all the things you cannot do due to your condition. This includes explaining how your condition is so severe that it prevents you from working. No detail is too small when it comes to providing documentation and evidence to help strengthen a disability claim.

Onset Date of Your Disability

Be sure to write down the onset date of your disability. This is the day you stopped being able to work due to your condition, whether you were injured on a certain day or received a diagnosis of a gradually worsening condition.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants have a five-month waiting period before they can begin receiving SSDI benefits. The five-month waiting period starts on your onset date. If you qualify for back pay, your onset date will also affect when your back pay starts.

The onset date generally does not impact Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims.

Incidents Related to Your Condition

Include the date and time of any incidents related to your condition. For instance, the occurrence of seizures, headaches or episodes of other weakening body pain. Make a notation of how long an event lasts and the circumstances that triggered the event.

Pain Intensity and Location

Aside from major incidences, record any bouts of pain and what you were doing when it happened. Detail the location and intensity of the pain (Rate the level of pain from one to 10). Write down the parts of your body that are aching, describe the nature of the pain and how long the pain lasts.

Pain is often difficult to prove because it is so subjective. An SSA representative or disability judge may not understand how severe your pain really is, so the more detailed you can get, the better.

If you are experiencing other symptoms, such as fatigue, which can also be hard to detect, a journal can help you keep track of when you feel fatigued and its impact.

Even mental issues should be recorded, regardless of if your condition is primarily physical. A combination of physical and mental impairments helps build a stronger case.

Medical Care and Treatments

Maintain a list of all medications you have been prescribed and whether they have caused any side effects. Detail the times and dates of your doctor’s visits and what was discussed in these routine situations.

A journal can also be useful to mention emergency situations. Perhaps you experienced a sudden change in your condition that required immediate surgery or an unscheduled treatment. The more information you can provide regarding your medical care and treatments, the more persuasive you will look to the SSA.  

Daily Physical Limitations

Record the daily activities that you can no longer perform due to your condition. Describe the particular activities that are affected and whether it is necessary for you to take breaks during these activities.

If you suffer from severe carpal tunnel syndrome, it might be affecting your ability to cook, clean and do other household tasks. Write down if you have difficulty preparing food and how long it takes you. Be honest about how the extent of your condition, and how it impacts your ability to eat, bath or dress yourself.

How Often to Make Entries

Keep your entries consistent and write in your journal on a regular basis. We advise at least a few times every week. The SSA will look over all of your medical records when reviewing your claim for disability, so having detailed evidence of any pain or limitations can help prove that you have a disabling condition.

Be as Detailed as You Can

A journal can be especially beneficial for certain medical conditions over others, such as chronic pain and fibromyalgia, which is harder to diagnose because their symptoms mimic other illnesses.

It is important to elaborate and describe your condition effectively to get the disability benefits you need. Be as detailed as you can to depict how you feel, but do not overexaggerate the ailments you are experiencing.

You need the SSA to understand that you cannot work due to your condition. This means explaining in your journal how your condition prevents you from doing job-related tasks. Once an SSA representative or disability judge sees that you are unable to work, he or she will be more inclined to rule in your favor.

A journal can also help your treating doctor and others assigned to the case to fully understand everything you are facing every day and how your condition restricts your ability to function.  

Get Help Obtaining Disability Benefits

Having a well-written journal can help improve your chances of being awarded disability benefits. If you need help with the claims process or appealing a denial notice, reach out to an experienced lawyer at our firm. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at no cost or obligation to you.

There are no upfront fees if you have a viable claim and decide to have us represent you. We also charge no fees while we work on a case and only get paid for our services if we help you obtain benefits.  

Learn if you have a case. 1-800-503-2000.

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