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 great weight on an initial Social Security disability or SSI disability claim or subsequent appeal. But, such statements must be detailed as well as substantial. Short, cursory statements (example: "My patient is 100% disabled and unable to work") are usually 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 is disabled. Statements written in this manner can greatly improve a claimant's chances of being awarded continuing and past due Social Security disability or SSI benefits. A letter or statement from a treating doctor should point out the following:
- A claimant's diagnosis or diagnoses.
- A claimant's physical restrictions (for example, level of inability to sit, stand, walk, stoop, crouch, grasp, reach, or otherwise move) or mental limitations.
- 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 Download page for a form that you can give to your doctor for help.