Most people think if they can prove they have a medical condition, that should be enough to get approved for Social Security disability. But it’s not the diagnosis by itself, it’s how that condition affects you personally.

Let me give a few examples. Compare two applicants, both were diagnosed with diabetes.

  • The first case, let’s say is Molly, she has had diabetes for 20 years, she worked most of that time, took medications and followed a diet, but now her condition is deteriorating despite her efforts. Her doctor has tried a couple of different medications, but even though the medications help, nothing works well enough to control her blood sugar.
  • The second case, is Louis, he was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and it runs in his family. He knows from caring for his parents who both had diabetes how serious the condition is, and now understands why he was getting tired recently. He was out of work due to a layoff and wants disability now.

Can you guess who is likely to be approved and who is likely to get denied? Louis is filing for disability because he got a diagnosis of diabetes, Molly is filing because her diabetes has recently gotten out of control. He was just diagnosed. She has a more severe condition at this point.

Once it is established what your diagnosis is, then Social Security looks at how the condition is affecting you, at this point in time. They need to know about the symptoms you experience due to your diagnosis. They need to know how often you have symptoms, how severe the symptoms are, and how long they last.

For example, lets say your condition causes several symptoms, one of them is dizziness. They need to know how often (frequency) you get dizzy spells, how bad (severity) are they, and how long (duration) do the dizzy spells last. For example, you get dizzy 2 or 3 times a day, when it happens you have to stop what you’re doing and steady yourself, and it lasts for about 3 minutes. That describes the frequency, severity, and duration of this symptom.

Some people will talk about all the symptoms that are caused by their condition, or submit an article about how bad that medical problem is, and all the problems it can cause.  A better approach would be to describe your own symptoms in detail.

It’s a good idea to keep a medical symptom diary, writing a paragraph or so about your symptoms every day. When Social Security asks questions about how your condition affects you, you will be able to give detailed answers based on your diary.