Will My Doctor Charge Me to Write a Letter for Social Security Disability?

Your doctor may charge you a fee to fill out a lengthy RFC form, but it's probably worth the money.

Updated by , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Some doctors charge for writing letters for their patients and some do not. Often, it depends on the type of letter you want your doctor to write.

For instance, if you just want your doctor to write a short letter stating that you're unable to work, you might not be charged. But a brief letter from your doctor that simply says you're disabled or you can't work won't help you prove your disability claim. Social Security disability examiners give this type of letter no weight when making their determination.

Your claims examiner will treat a detailed, supportive opinion from your doctor as strong evidence for your disability case. But for your doctor's letter to be of any value, it must:

  • be backed up by objective medical evidence (gathered using acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques), and
  • explain why you have physical or mental limitations.

Why Pay for a Doctor's Statement?

It's not uncommon for doctors to charge a fee to fill out disability paperwork and write the kind of detailed disability letter you need to support your claim. How much a doctor's letter costs depends on the type of paperwork they need to fill out. If you're asking for a simple check-the-box form, your doctor might charge a fee of $30 or so. For a longer, more detailed, written opinion, the fee could be more like $100.

To help you prove your disability case, your doctor's "letter" or statement should include the following:

  • a brief medical history
  • a diagnosis of your impairment(s)
  • clinical findings
  • your response to treatment, and
  • your prognosis.

Your treating doctor (or psychologist) should also include a comprehensive statement expressing an opinion as to your "residual functional capacity" (RFC)—what you can do and what you can no longer do because of your condition. Ask your doctor to complete our RFC form, as it can be extremely helpful for proving your disability case.

What Your Doctor's Letter Should Say

The RFC letter or form should state clearly what your doctor feels you're capable of doing despite the functional limitations imposed by your disabling condition. Here's an example of a short doctor's statement:

Doctors' Notes for Physical Impairments

The doctor's opinion should list the effects your impairment has on your ability to perform specific activities. If your impairment is physical, it should include activities like:

  • sitting
  • standing
  • walking
  • carrying and handling objects
  • lifting (and how much you can lift), or
  • your ability to hear or speak.

Doctors' Notes for Mental Impairments

If you have a mental impairment, your disability paperwork should include a letter from your doctor describing your ability to:

  • understand, remember and carry out instructions, and
  • respond appropriately to supervision, coworkers, and work situations.

Additionally, your treating physician or psychologist could offer an opinion on how your mental condition or medical condition affects your ability to perform routine daily activities such as:

  • taking care of your finances
  • shopping
  • driving
  • personal hygiene
  • household chores
  • interacting with family and friends, and
  • adapting to change.

Your Doctors' Opinions Can Make or Break Your Disability Case

In some cases, Social Security will place an emphasis on medical evidence from your treating medical doctor (or psychologist). In part, this is because they're in the best position to give a detailed, long-term view of your impairment(s). A doctor who's been treating your condition for some time can offer a perspective and insight that you can't get from medical findings alone, Social Security examinations, or brief hospitalization notes.

So if your doctor's willing to complete detailed disability paperwork with the information listed above, it could dramatically improve your chances of being approved for disability benefits—as long as your doctor's statement is supported by medical evidence and isn't inconsistent with other evidence. Such a letter might be well worth paying for.

(Learn what to do if your doctor won't help with your disability claim.)

Updated July 19, 2022

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