Medication Side Effects and Social Security Disability Benefits

May 3, 2023

We are indeed fortunate to live in a time when we have so many modern medications available to treat the symptoms of disease or injury, relieve suffering, and even cure many adverse medical conditions.

The downside of these wonder drugs is that they often cause side effects. Side effects can play a role in qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is obligated by law to consider the side effects of any prescribed medications in determining your eligibility for disability benefits.

However, be aware that Social Security is not considering whether a medication may cause particular side effects. What the SSA considers is whether you, in fact, experience those side effects.

Nash Disability Law attorney Dan Rosen explains, “Clients often mistake what side effects a medication could cause, versus what it causes for them. Often they will show us the form from Walgreens showing all possible side effects. But for example, if gabapentin (a medication prescribed to control neuropathy and other symptoms) can cause drowsiness, for example, it only matters if it causes you to be drowsy.”

To qualify for disability benefits you will need accurate and up-to-date medical records documenting the symptoms of your impairment and how those symptoms prevent you from being able to work.

Side effects are important additional symptoms to be documented in your records. But doctors often don’t document side effects. It’s important that you report them and that your doctors write them down. Otherwise, they likely won’t be considered.

Here are a few examples of side effects that can interfere with your ability to work. Do you have one or more meds that:

  • Affect your digestion, causing diarrhea and the need to use the restroom frequently throughout the day?
  • Cause fatigue  and the need to rest for several hours each day?
  • Create difficulties in your ability to concentrate, or cause you to be confused or unable to focus your attention?
  • Lead to memory problems  like keeping appointments, managing your finances, and even coping with simple day-to-day tasks?

If so, you should report them to your doctor consistently.

You should also keep a written disability journal. This is one way to strengthen your application and improve your odds of being awarded the benefits you have earned.

Simply stated, a disability journal is a log that tracks how your disability affects your day-to-day living and what you do to manage it.

Written details about any medication side effects are important because, while objective evidence such as x-rays and laboratory test results can be documented by other people, side effects, much like pain and other symptoms, are subjective in that they can only be documented by you. Detailed examples can be powerful support for your disability benefits claim.

If you are considering applying for disability benefits for any impairment that prevents you from being able to get and hold a job, our advice is to create and keep a written record, and apply for benefits as early as you can.

If you want a free evaluation of your disability case, call or email our team of disability lawyers at Nash Disability Law.