The Social Security Administration (SSA) receives more than two million applications for Social Security Disability benefits each and every year. Of these applications, a mere thirty percent are approved during the initial stage of the application process. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of applicants do not provide the SSA with enough evidence to prove the extent of their disability and how that disability prevents them from being able to work.
Further Reading: What Conditions Qualify For Disability?
If you plan on filing an application for Social Security Disability benefits, a statement from your treating physician can help you prove your disability in order to receive the Social Security Disability benefits that you are entitled to. The question is, how do you get your doctor's help to obtain the disability benefits you need?
The following information can help you get your doctor's assistance in order to improve your chances of a successful Social Security Disability application.
Do You Need a Doctor When Apply for Benefits?
When applying for SSDI, it’s important that you have seen a doctor in the past as well as are continuing to see one now. Without seeing a doctor, you will not have the evidence you need to demonstrate that you meet the medical requirements for disability benefits.
You will need different tests, medical documents, x-rays, scans, treatment plans, prescriptions and more to show you medically qualify for disability benefits. These cannot be obtained without help from a doctor. If you have not seen a doctor, then a disability lawyer may be able to help compile evidence that you do medically qualify.
Do Doctors Do Disability Evaluations?
Yes, there are doctors that do disability evaluations. If you are thinking about applying for disability, you can ask your current personal doctor to provide supporting evidence on their disability. He or she may be able to do the disability evaluation. If your doctor is unavailable, a nurse may also be able to perform the disability evaluation on your behalf.
You may need to make an appointment with your doctor to get the disability evaluation done. This will give the doctor set time to complete the evaluation to ensure that the evaluation is completed. If you do not currently have a doctor or physician, you can contact your insurance provider to find a list of doctor’s in your area accepting new patients.
If your doctor does not do disability evaluations, you can see if they can refer you to a doctor who does. Some states, like Massachusetts, have programs such as a disability evaluation service where they can do a disability evaluation on your behalf and see if you will be able to qualify for disability benefits.
The SSA may also suggest you see one of their doctors for the disability evaluation. This would occur with a doctor that the SSA already works with.
Finding a Doctor to Support Your Disability Claim
Finding a doctor to support your disability claim is a crucial element of getting your claim approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
With the SSA denying a majority of disability claims, you must submit convincing medical evidence that meets the standards listed in the Blue Book published by the SSA.
Your doctor not only must present the results of diagnostic tests, but also a written statement that describes the severity of your symptoms. A prognosis statement lets the SSA know about your chances of making a full recovery.
Your journey for finding a doctor to support your disability claim starts with your general family physician. Your physician puts you through a series of tests to determine the extent of your disability.
After you explain that you plan to submit a claim for disability benefits, your family physician might refer you to a specialist who can provide more detailed information concerning your disability.
Both your general physicians and the specialists referred by your doctor should support your disability claim in writing.
Finding a doctor to support your disability claim is also important if the SSA requests that you undergo a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment.
An RFC assessment measures your ability to complete basic job functions. For example, if you work as a carpenter and a disability has impaired your ability to continue working, an RFC assessment will conduct tests that determine the strength of your hands and arms.
Although the SSA has doctors that conduct RFC assessments, you should get a second opinion from your general family physician.
Meeting with Your Doctor
Prior to filing your claim for Social Security Disability benefits, you should contact your doctor's office to schedule an appointment. You will want to discuss your plans to file for disability benefits with your treating physician. When filing a claim for Social Security Disability with the SSA, the SSA will request a written statement from your doctor. If you want to increase your chances of receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you will want your doctor to be prepared for this request.
Sit down and discuss your condition with your doctor. Explain how your disability has had an impact on your ability to perform routine day-to-day activities. You and you doctor can review the Blue Book listing for the condition you are experiencing to establish if you meet the qualifications. Your doctor needs to understand the extent of your disability if he or she is expected to relay the information properly to the SSA when providing them with a written statement.You can also apply for disability if you are working part time. Approval will be harder but it is still possible. You can tell your doctor about the definition of disability according to Social Security is being unable to work full-time or unable to keep work earning more than SGA level.
During this appointment, you should ask your doctor whether or not he agrees that you qualify for disability benefits. If your doctor supports your Social Security Disability claim, your chances of receiving a favorable decision from the SSA are significantly increased.
If you are having trouble getting your doctor to fill out any forms or write a letter explaining why you qualify for benefits, consider making an appointment specifically for your doctor to complete the forms. By doing so, a doctor will not need to find time later to complete them.
What Is Needed From Your Doctor?
Your doctor will need to provide the SSA with a written statement regarding the extent and circumstances of your disability. This statement should be detailed and informative and supported by objective medical evidence. A simple statement from your doctor claiming that you are unable to work will not help your claim if there is no objective evidence to support that claim. Your doctor's statement must be supported by objective medical findings, such as laboratory test results and x-ray images.
When meeting with your doctor, explain that he or she will need to provide the SSA with information about your diagnosis, the physical restrictions your condition places on you, the prognosis of your condition and how your condition prevents you from being able to participate in gainful work activity. You should also inform your doctor that they will need to provide medical evidence supporting these facts.
Your doctor may already be aware of the information that is needed to process your Social Security Disability claim, but it doesn't hurt to discuss this information with your treating physician prior to submitting your claim for benefits.
If Your Claim for Benefits Has Been Denied
If you have already filed an application for Social Security Disability benefits, it is still not too late to get help from your doctor. When you reach the second stage of the disability appeal process, you will need to attend a hearing before an administrative law judge. This judge will place great weight in the statement provided by the doctor who has been treating your condition.
If your doctor has not yet provided the SSA with a complete and accurate statement regarding your condition, it is crucial that he or she do so before the date of your hearing. Contact your doctor, either in person or by phone, to discuss your concerns and to request the statement be completed before your hearing date.
Do I Need a Doctor to Receive Disability Benefits?
If you have not seen a doctor, it may be challenging to win your disability claim. Without a doctor’s support, you may run into the issue of not having enough medical evidence to prove you meet the medical requirements for disability benefits.
You can request to have a Consultative Examination (CE) performed by a doctor hired by the SSA. A CE help determine if your disabling condition qualifies for disability benefits. If you require seeing a specialist, such as if a physician does not have the required expertise to assess how your condition impacts your work ability, you may have a CE with a specialist appointed by the SSA.
To further help support your claim, you may want to get letters from coworkers, caregivers, and/or employers about how your condition has impacted your ability to work. Although these letters can be helpful for those who have been seeing a doctor, they are especially important for those that have not been. Having witness statements can help prove your claim for benefits.
What if I Cannot Afford a Doctor?
If you have not been seeing a doctor about your disabling condition because you cannot afford to receive treatment, you may still be able to qualify for benefits. You will need to prove that you are unable to afford healthcare and/or that you do not have access to low-cost or free healthcare.
You will need to prove that you have tried to access low-cost healthcare options in your area but were unsuccessful. Some ways to do so are contacting community organizations about healthcare assistance, applying for Medicaid, contacting doctors’ offices inquiring about any low-cost options they provide, etc. Keep copies of these interactions and any information sent to show that you were trying to receive treatment for the condition you are experiencing.
Consult with an Attorney
Prior to filing for disability benefits, you may want to consider hiring a disability attorney. Disability attorneys are very knowledgeable about the process and will be able to contact your physician to gather the necessary documentation. If you are having trouble getting a doctor to help you with your claim, a lawyer may be able to assist. They can then help you apply for benefits.
If you have already been denied benefits, then it is extremely important that you do hire an attorney. Proper legal representation will significantly increase your chances of winning your appeal at the hearing stage of the disability claim process.