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When talking with your doctor about the medications you take, remember that it is critical to let your doctor know what side effects you are experiencing. Medications such as those taken for cancer, heart conditions, high blood pressure, and diabetes can quite literally be life-sustaining and must be taken on a daily basis. However, these and many other medications have side effects that may significantly interfere with a person’s ability to work.

Document Your Side Effects

Documentation of the precise side effects you experience is not only helpful for receiving proper medical care from your physicians, but also critical to proving how the side effects of these medications affect your daily life and your ability to work. Here are some helpful suggestions for documenting your side effects:

  1. In advance of your regularly scheduled appointment, prepare a written list of the side effects you are experiencing and request that the list gets placed into your medical records for all health care providers to see.
  2. Call your health care provider’s office and report the side effects of your prescribed medication and request that this information gets noted in your medical chart so that it can be discussed at future appointments.
  3. Discuss the side effects you experience from each individual medication you take with your doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant at your regular appointment.

The ways your medication affects your life will be documented in your medical records.

Why Is This Important to Your Social Security Disability Case?

Social Security’s own rules and regulations require that the effect of prescribed medications on a person’s ability to work be carefully evaluated. Below are some examples of how specific types of medication can result in side effects.

Pain Medication

If you are in pain and not sleeping, your doctor may prescribe a medication to help reduce the pain level that also causes drowsiness.  Even though the drowsiness you experience is not a problem and may actually help you get to sleep, drowsiness from medication would be a real problem for you if you were trying to work and remain alert throughout a normal workday.

Blood Pressure Medication

Another very common example of a side effect of a medication that would interfere with work comes from the diuretic effect of many high blood pressure medications. A diuretic is a medication designed to rid the body of excess water, which in turn helps to lower the blood pressure of the person taking it. When these drugs work properly and the excess water is being expelled, the person has to make frequent trips to the restroom to urinate. Not only does the person taking this medication have to remain physically close to a restroom at all times, something many employers cannot guarantee, but the individual’s normal workday is significantly interrupted by the need to urinate frequently.

Often during a disability hearing when someone is testifying to a specific medication side effect experienced, a judge will ask that person why this does not appear in the medical records or why this side effect has not been reported to the doctor. This situation illustrates perfectly the need for the reported side effects to be recorded in your medical records so that the disability judge can see that you do indeed have these problems. A judge is quite likely to be persuaded by what your health care professionals write about you in your medical records.

Take Action to Protect Your Rights

Open communication with your health care professionals and your insistence that these side effects get documented in your medical records can help fix this potential problem. Being proactive about this will not only aid your doctor in formulating the very best treatment plan for you by making the appropriate adjustments to your medications, but will also help to establish to a Social Security judge’s satisfaction exactly why you are unable to work.

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Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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