Your medical records are one of the most important pieces of your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
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.
What Should My Doctor Put in The Letter?
A letter from your doctor on your disability can help provide support for your application. While your doctor may be able to determine your level of disability, a 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
A letter of support 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 records, 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
The SSA is most interested in specific details about how your medical condition affects your physical and mental abilities. Your doctor’s statement 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
Working With Your Doctor
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 letter supporting your claim for benefits.
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 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.