Pittsburgh Disability Lawyer Advice About Symptom Diaries

Pittsburgh disability lawyer offers common-sense advice on keeping a symptom diary

A Pittsburgh disability lawyer will likely recommend that anyone hoping to obtain Social Security disability benefits keep a symptom diary.

What is a symptom diary?

A symptom diary can take many forms –- a journal, a calendar, a chart, a spreadsheet. Anything that allows you to routinely record specific, disability-related symptoms can be a “symptom diary.”

How will a symptom diary help your case?

Pittsburgh Social Security disability cases often are won or lost at the administrative hearing. At the hearing, the judge will ask you questions about your ability to function (to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, etc.) and about how your disability impacts your daily activities. The more specific details and anecdotes you can provide, the stronger your testimony will be, and the greater the likelihood your claim for Pittsburgh disability benefits will be approved.

For example, the claimant who testifies, “My back hurts,” presents a much weaker case than the claimant who testifies: “The pain is localized in my lower back and travels down my right leg. Most days, the pain is fairly intense — a 6 out of 10. I experienced this kind of intense pain 25 days out of 30 last month. Over the past 6 months, I had 4 episodes where the pain was so intense – a 9 out 10 – that I had to spend the entire day lying on my back on the floor.”

As a practical matter, there often is a lengthy delay between the time you file your application for Pittsburgh Social Security disability benefits and the day of your hearing. Regardless of how good your memory is, the quality and accuracy of your testimony will suffer if you do not have a written record of how and when your symptoms have affected your daily life.

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What type of diary is best for your case?

In most instances, your medical condition will dictate the type of diary (or diaries) that would be most effective for your case. Some examples of symptom diaries include:

  • Pain diary. For many Pittsburgh Social Security disability claimants, pain is a troubling and ongoing symptom. A pain diary will help you track the details of your pain and its impact on your day-to-day activities. For example, you might use a monthly chart to record every day that you have pain and, specifically, where the pain was localized; the intensity of the pain; the duration of the pain; and your response to the pain.
  • Sleep diary. Sleep patterns often change as a result of a medical condition or the side-effects of medication. A sleep diary can be used to record the hours in which you slept easily; the hours in which you tried to sleep, but could not; and the hours in which you wanted to be awake, but slept.
  • Fatigue diary. A daily fatigue diary will help you track the severity of your fatigue. You can use this type of diary to note when you feel fatigued and how long the fatigue lasts.
  • Headache diary. Whatever the cause of your headaches, a monthly headache diary can be used to record the date and time of each headache; the location and duration of the pain, and any headache-related nausea or other symptoms.
  • Asthma and/or nebulizer diary. If you have asthma, a diary can be useful for recording asthma-related events, including the triggers, duration and severity of your attacks. A weekly nebulizer diary can be used to record scheduled and unscheduled treatments. This type of diary can be powerful proof that even though you have “good days,” you have many more “bad” days on which you would not be able to work.

How do you get started?

Your Pittsburgh disability lawyer can counsel you on the best type of diary for your case. If you are not presently represented by a Pittsburgh disability lawyer, you can begin on your own. Think about the symptom that troubles you the most –- pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, etc — and start to focus on when and how that symptom affects you. Take notes. Any written record will be better than relying solely on your memory.

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