How to use diaries to prove your disability to the Social Security Administration in Iowa
The success of your Iowa Social Security disability case will depend largely on how well you testify about your symptoms and limitations during your hearing testimony. While you may be good at recalling the limitations on your routine daily activities, it may be harder for you to recall detailed facts about a variety of symptoms and effects occurring over a period of weeks and months.
The quality and accuracy of your testimony will increase dramatically with the use of a simple diary. Even the kind of generic calendar that most families have hanging in the kitchen is better as a recording device than bare memory.
Even better are diaries that are specially designed to record relevant disability-related events. By recording the events as they occur, you can create a history that is difficult for the Social Security Administration to refute.
Sadly, there is a long delay before Social Security disability hearings in Dubuque Iowa and in most parts of the country. Keeping one or more diaries will help you use this time in a meaningful way and participate in the development of your case. If you send your diaries to your Social Security disability attorney periodically, he or she can see if what you are recording will be helpful or if there are additional impairments or symptoms that you need to document.
Your diaries serve an important role when gathering information from your treating doctor. Your disability attorney can attach copies of the diaries to a request for a treating source statement from your doctor. This gives your doctor the opportunity to incorporate the signs and symptoms of your conditions into relevant medical opinions.
How many and what type of diaries should you keep?
How many and what type of diaries you need to keep depends on the facts of your case. You and your disability attorney may decide you should keep a general symptom diary in which you record all of your symptoms or a separate diary devoted entirely to one troublesome disabling symptom.
Often one diary is insufficient. For example, a lower back pain diary may be most helpful when used in combination with a fatigue diary. Likewise, a hepatitis diary might be well combined with a more detailed headache diary. Your disability attorney can help you decide which diaries will be most useful.
Some types of diaries that may be useful in your case
Some possibilities for diaries include:
- Fever. Many conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic colitis, regional enteritis, immune disorders, autoimmune disorders, HIV, systemic lupus erythematosus, and undifferentiated connective tissue disorders produce night and daytime fevers that are important signs of the disease process and interfere with work capacity. A monthly fever diary could be in the form of a grid that lists the days of the month in the left hand column and provides additional columns for you to note your temperature and the time of day each time you experience a fever.
- Fatigue. Many conditions produce episodes of fatigue such as chemotherapy, drug side effects, HIV infection, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, limited cardiac output, chronic heart failure, ischemic heart disease, multiple sclerosis, immune system diseases, lupus, and systemic vasculitis are just a few. A weekly fatigue diary could allow you to record, for each day of the week, how severe your fatigue is on a scale of 1 to 10, what parts of your body are affected, and how long you needed to lie down or rest.
- Fainting. Fainting is often associated with difficult-to-prove conditions such as Meniere’s disease. Fainting can be an important symptom in cardiovascular impairments, including recurrent arrhythmias. For each episode, you could include the date and time, duration, post-episode symptoms (such as loss of concentration), and preventive measures.
- Headache. Headaches may be of vascular origin, including migraine headaches. Additionally, headaches are found in immune disorders including lupus and HIV, hypertension, and a history of brain and neck trauma, including acceleration/deceleration injuries such as whiplash. A headache diary could record the date of each headache, its duration, the level of pain, the location of the pain, whether the headache is accompanied by nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, the medication and other actions taken to relieve pain.
- Sleep. Sleep impairment and the side effects of strong medications affecting sleep are among the most common symptoms encountered in Social Security disability cases. They are often overlooked and under-reported. Conditions such as post-polio sequelae, sleep apnea, obesity, organic brain disorders, mental disorders including depression, digestive disorders, and chronic pain can chronically disturb sleep. A monthly sleep diary could list the days in the left hand column and the hours in a row across the top. You could mark each hour in which you tried, but could not sleep with one symbol and use a different symbol to mark unwanted occurrences of sleep.
- Hypoglycemic event. You may experience hypoglycemic events if you have diabetes mellitus, hypoglycemia, or adrenogenital syndrome. Hypoglycemic events often include shaking, trembling, sweating, extreme hunger, panic, incapacity to mentally focus, weakness, and at times dizziness leading to fainting. A hypoglycemic event diary could provide space for you to record the date, time, and location of each event, the names of any witnesses, the duration of the episode, your blood sugar level, and how the event was treated.
- Asthma. An asthma diary can permit you to record the severity of your symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, what triggered your attack, and your treatment. It can provide a place for you to record your peak expiratory flow if you are measuring it regularly with a flow meter.
- Nebulizer. In addition to asthma, other conditions of the lungs such as cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, chronic persistent infections of the lung, and chronic asthmatic bronchitis also provide opportunities to track various forms of inhalation therapy, including treatment with a nebulizer. A weekly nebulizer diary can provide a space for you to record both scheduled and unscheduled treatments. For each treatment you can list the time, duration, recovery time, and precipitating factors. While many vocational experts will testify that employers will allow short breaks for “scheduled” treatments, close attention to the frequency and duration of “unscheduled” treatments may show that while you have “good days,” there are significant periods where employment is not possible.
We can help
Developing the best possible case for your disability claim requires careful attention to detail and the guidance of a knowledgeable Social Security disability lawyer. If you are not already represented and want our evaluation of your case, give us a brief description of your claim using the form to the right. Or you may contact us at:
Law Offices of Thad J. Murphy
Dubuque Iowa Social Security disability lawyers
Phone: 888-256-7413 (toll free)
1635 Associates Drive, Suite 102
(next door to the Dubuque Social Security office)
Dubuque, Iowa 52002
Or by appointment at:
617 Brady Street
Davenport, Iowa 52803