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I can’t afford to go to a doctor. How can I get the medical records I need to qualify for Social Security Disability?

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you will need to provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) with medical evidence to validate your claim. If you are applying for disability benefits it is likely that you cannot work and are living off of limited income. When facing these circumstances, it can be difficult to receive the medical care that you need.

So what happens if you cannot afford to go to a doctor, but you are applying for disability benefits?

First, you should look into all state and local options. Check with your state’s Medicaid administrator to see if there are any in-state programs that can help you receive the medical care you need. Be sure to research all clinics and offices in your area that specifically cater to low-income patients.

We have compiled a list of free or low-cost medical clinics across the United States. See the clinics available in your state: State Disability Resources.

Social Security Disability Consultative Medical Exam

If a claimant submits a Social Security Disability application with minimal medical evidence, the SSA may require that he or she attends a consultative medical examination. Consultative exams are conducted by doctors throughout the country who have been contracted to work with the SSA. The point of a consultative exam is to collect relevant medical records that will help the SSA determine whether or not a person is disabled.

Although this may seem helpful for those who don’t have access to medical treatment, the consultative exam won’t always work in the claimant’s favor. Here’s why:

  • The doctor performing the exam will have little knowledge of your medical history and may not be able to understand the limitations that you face based off of a single visit.
  • The consultative exam is not intended to provide treatment. It is simply held to provide the SSA with updated medical evidence. The examiner will not be able to prescribe you medicine or see you on a regular basis.
  • In the past, applicants have reported that their consultative exams lasted no longer than ten minutes. If a doctor does not take the time to understand your condition and limitations, he or she will not be able to give an accurate report to the Social Security Administration.

For these reasons we strongly suggest that you research other options before applying for disability without medical evidence. When searching for a doctor, explain that you are planning to apply for disability benefits and need a basic examination and records to provide as part of your application. Be sure to ask about a diagnosis, a long-term outlook, and an official opinion about whether or not you are capable of working.

Although finding affordable medical care can be hard work, remember that it can increase your chances of being awarded benefits. Don’t rely on the consultative exam to provide adequate medical evidence.

If you have a question that you’d like us to answer, leave it in the comment section below and it may appear in an upcoming blog post!


I have a lawyer to help me with my claim. I have been asked by my primary Dr. if I have a disability doctor. Do I need a doctor appointed by Social Security to get approved? I have been seeing my regular doctor , pain management, and have been denided surgery because it will not do much good. I did not know I would need a special doctor to say I can no longer work. If you have any info please comment. Thanks

Hi Kelly, the SSA will only require you to see one of their doctors if you do not have enough medical evidence from your own doctor.

I didn't have the money to go to the doctor except I did go to the emergency room for the problems I have on 3 occasions. I actually applied for medicaid first which in Missouri I was told by the DFS I had to file for SS disability to receive medicaid. Medicaid had their doctor review me who told me I had multitude of problems and needed seen immediately. That was in Mar, this is May still have not received medicaid. Social Security sent me to their doctor, who conferred with a doctor also there and sent me to the emergency room saying I needed on blood thinners that what I have is life threatening. I don't know what to expect next. The doctor was very concerned actually about my immediate health as was the state doctor. I didn't go to the emergency room because I kn ow they aren't going to give someone blood thinners without being monitored. What will happen next and should I just hire a lawyer?