Your medical records are one of the most important pieces of your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. In fact, providing the proper—and sufficient—medical documentation is one of the most important potential signs your disability claim will be approved.
While it is essential to include formal medical records and data with your application, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of a more personal, detailed statement, also called a "medical source statement" from your primary care doctor regarding your medical condition and its effects on your everyday abilities, including your ability to maintain gainful employment.
Getting A Doctor's Disability Letter
A disability letter from your doctor in support of your disability claim may help increase your chances of having your disability claim approved.
The disability doctor letter should detail your medical history and how your daily life is affected by your condition. In the disability letter, your doctor should detail your medical history and why your doctor thinks you would qualify you for disability.
It should discuss your diagnosis, medical tests that confirmed your diagnosis, exam notes that detail how you are affected by the condition, and what you can and cannot do.
While your doctor basically rehashes your medical records, he or she is writing it in a way that is easier to understand and basically summarizes it.
It puts the details in an easier to understand form and, also, makes it more relatable to your condition and your everyday life. Your doctor’s disability letter will detail your medical issues and how you are affected by the condition or conditions.
By providing the formal diagnosis, the date of onset of disability, the tests performed to diagnose your condition, and the treatments you have undergone to limit the effects of your condition.
It will also give a long-term outlook for your condition as well as the timeframe of the regression or progression of your condition.
It should also indicate the symptoms that you suffer as well as how your daily life is affected by your symptoms. It should also talk about your ability to work and how you are limited.
What Should My Doctor Put in The Letter?
A doctor disability letter is a statement from your primary care doctor that can be used as a source of medical evidence that can help provide support for your disability benefits application.
While your doctor may be able to determine your level of disability, a disability letter from your doctor that just states that you are disabled may not be given as much weight as a letter that has detailed, specific information about the following:
- Your medical conditon(s)
- Objective medical evidence of your condition
- Your doctor's medical opinion on your limitations,
- An explanation as to how the medical evidence supports your doctor's opinion on your condition
Explaining Your Condition In A Disability Letter From Doctor
A disability letter from your doctor can go a long way toward qualifying for disability benefits. Not only does it support the information that’s found in your medical reports, but it summarizes the information into a much more easily digestible format. It also provides a targeted, detailed explanation of your overall medical condition, including:
- The formal diagnosis, and the onset date, of your disability
- The diagnostic procedures undertaken to diagnose your condition and to rule out illnesses that can cause similar symptoms
- The treatments you’ve undergone for mitigating the effects of your condition on your everyday ability to function, including your ability to perform normal job duties
- The outlook for your disability, including whether your condition should improve or will worsen with time, and the overall timeframe of the progression or regression of your disability
- The symptoms from which you suffer and how those symptoms affect your everyday life, including your ability to work
Defining Your Limitations In Your Disability Letter From a Doctor
The SSA is most interested in specific details about how your medical condition affects your physical and mental abilities. Your doctor’s disability letter supporting your claim for disability benefits should include very specific information about how well you’re able to:
- Sit, stand, stoop, crouch, walk, balance and kneel
- Use your hands and arms, including reaching, grasping and lifting
- Lift certain weights or if you have restrictions on the amount of weight you can lift or carry
- Complete routine or repetitive tasks
In addition to these details, your doctor’s statement should also provide specific information on your:
- Range of motion
Any limitations in these areas should be noted. Each of these details is also most helpful when assigned a corresponding or representative severity level, as the SSA wants quantifiable proof of your disability.
For more information about how your doctor can help with your application, you may want to take a look at our pages about the subject:
- Are Doctor's Statements More Important than Medical Records?
- The Role Your Doctor Plays in Your Application for Social Security Disability Benefits
What Form Does My Doctor Fill Out For Disability Benefits?
If you are applying for disability benefits, your doctor should complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) form. This form can be provided along with a disability letter.
The form should detail what you can and cannot do, so the disability examiner can determine what kind of work – if there is any – that you can do.
As an example, it should detail how long you can stand, the frequency of breaks, if you are unable to be around chemicals or inhalants, how much you can lift, how far you can walk, and so forth.
It will also discuss your ability for social interaction, assimilate new information, and engage in simple, routine, repetitive tasks, known as SRRTs.
Your RFC will also indicate if you are unable to stay focused or if you have difficulty finishing a task. The RFC assesses your ability to work after taking all mental and physical conditions into consideration.
There are two forms – a mental RFC form and a physical RFC form. The mental RFC is completed by a psychologist or psychiatrist and refers to all mental symptoms, such as illogical thinking, delusions, memory issues, fatigue, and so forth.
A physical RFC will rate your residual functioning capacity, such as your ability to perform routine daily activities. It will make reference to how long you can stand, sit, walk, crouch, bend, reach, and stoop.
It will say how much you can lift, what you can carry, and what you can and cannot do in detail. When you submit a disability letter and a disability form, you can significantly increase your likelihood of having your claim approved.
Working With Your Doctor To Get a Disability Letter
Some doctors are resistant to the idea of composing a medical source statement or letter supporting a disability claim. This is mostly due to the time required to do so. There are forms available for guiding a physician in writing a statement that evaluates your overall medical condition and your “residual functional capacity” (RFC), which is what the SSA calls your ability to perform everyday tasks and job duties, given the specific limitations your medical condition places on you.
The SSA may provide an RFC Report form to your physician to obtain the information it needs to make a determination on your claim for SSD benefits. You can also give a copy of the RFC Report form to your physician for reference when composing a disability letter supporting your claim for benefits.
An attorney can help you file your claim quickly so that you can start receiving benefits faster. Complete the Free Case Evaluation on this page to consult with a lawyer about your case today!
The RFC Report form can be downloaded or printed from the SSA’s website.
You have a lot to gain from a successful Social Security disability claim. A successful claim wouldn’t just mean consistent financial support for your ailment—it would also grant you the kind of stability that you may have been missing out on for years now. Unfortunately, winning a claim isn’t a cakewalk, which is why you should consider consulting a Social Security disability attorney or disability advocate. Your attorney will use his or her knowledge and experience to fight on your behalf and help you get the benefits you need—and you don’t even need to pay your lawyer unless you win. A successful Social Security claim could be life-changing, so don’t wait to get an evaluation and talk to a Social Security disability attorney as soon as possible.
Curious what conditions automatically qualify you for disability? Click here to find out.