How to Get Doctors to Help With Your Social Security Disability Case

Ask your doctor to fill out a form providing details on how and why you are disabled.

If you are applying for Social Security or SSI disability, getting your doctor's support is critical. Unfortunately, doctors tend to be fairly busy in their duties and are often reluctant to volunteer for additional tasks, including writing letters and filling out forms on behalf of Social Security disability claimants. Nevertheless, if your doctor believes you are disabled and is willing to support your case in writing, you should ask for a detailed statement to this effect.

Statements from a claimant's treating physician can carry a good deal of weight on a Social Security disability or SSI disability claim or appeal. But, a doctor's statements must be detailed and substantial and must reference the medical evidence in your records. Short, cursory statements (for example, "My patient is 100% disabled and unable to work") are of no benefit. And an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will give little weight to a physician's medical opinion if that opinion cannot be demonstrated to be supported by objective medical findings.

In other words, a doctor should not simply state that a person is disabled, but, rather, why a person has disabling limitations. A letter or statement from a treating doctor should point out the following:

  • a claimant's diagnosis or diagnoses and the test results used to come to this conclusion
  • a claimant's physical restrictions (for example, level of inability to sit, stand, walk, stoop, crouch, grasp, reach, or otherwise move) or mental limitations
  • how the patient's condition causes these restrictions and limitations, and
  • a claimant's prognosis (how long the impairments or limitations are expected to last).

Ideally, a statement from a doctor should be detailed as well as advocative. The statement should, in most regards, mirror the RFC form (Residual Functional Capacity form) used by physicians and examiners at Disability Determination Services to make decisions on cases. See our RFC Form Download page for a form that you can give to your doctor for help.

If your doctor seems reluctant to help by completing an RFC form, you may be able to convince him or her, depending on the reason for the reluctance. For information on suggestions to work with your doctor, see our article on getting your doctor to cooperate on your disability claim.

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