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Your Doctor and Your Disability Claim

Your Doctor and Your Disability Claim

One of the most important parts of your application for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a letter from your doctor attesting to your disabling condition and how it affects your life. SSA gives tremendous weight to the medical evidence supporting your claim, so it is important to consider how to ask your doctor for assistance to increase your chances of success.

Doctors vary in how they feel about Social Security Disability; some are very supportive and encouraging of their patients’ attempts to obtain benefits, and others are not as encouraging. If you believe you have a strong claim for disability, and your doctor absolutely will not support you, you should consider consulting another doctor to evaluate you. Keep in mind that Social Security will have its own doctors evaluate your claim. If SSA’s doctors say you can work despite your disability, and your doctor says you cannot because of it (especially if a specialist is treating you), federal law requires SSA to give more weight to your specialist doctor’s opinion.

Initially, you may wonder which doctor to ask for help. You may see many doctors for a variety of reasons, but, all things considered, you should first ask the physician who treats your disabling condition because he or she likely knows your condition better than any other doctor. If that is not an option, consider asking your primary care physician, since he or she likely knows you well and has a long history of treating your medical needs.

Your doctor will need to fill out forms and provide medical records to Social Security. If possible, ask your doctor to complete these forms and provide you with your medical records prior to filing your application. This will increase your chances of being approved for benefits when your application is reviewed. If you have an attorney representing you, he or she can contact your doctor and explain the process of applying for disability as well as what is needed from the doctor to bolster your claim.

Before going into your doctor’s appointment, write down each medical problem you experience and describe specifically how it limits your ability to function as you normally would. Remember that what you need is not simply a letter stating that you are disabled according to your doctor. He or she needs to explicitly state what your disabling conditions are, provide objective medical evidence that you suffer from those disabling conditions, offer his or her medical opinion on what your limitations are, and explain how the medical evidence noted above supports his or her opinion. Again, your attorney can assist the physician in writing a letter that covers all these bases.

As a final tip, in conversations with your treating physician it is important to explain how you feel and any limitations on what you are able to do. Be honest with your doctor: do not exaggerate your symptoms but also do not say you are improving or feeling great if you are not.