Can a Physical Therapist Help Me with My Disability Claim?

Submitted by Kyle on

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, an individual must be suffering from a long-term disabling condition that is expected to last for at least 12 months and that disability must prevent the individual from performing any type of work activity whatsoever.

However, simply having a condition that meets the outlined requirements of a disability (specified in the SSA's Blue Book) is not enough for an applicant to be granted disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA must also see that the disability applicant has tried obtaining treatment in order to improve his or her condition. In some cases, this may mean enlisting the help of a physical therapist.

Further Reading: What Conditions Qualify For Disability?

Medical Evidence is Important

When you are applying for SSDI, the adjudicator who reviews your file will not only want to see medical evidence of your disability but he or she will also want to see your treatment history and the outcomes of any treatment.

If your disability is physical in nature and can be helped with physical therapy, the adjudicator will want to see record of this physical therapy taking place and will need to see the progress that this therapy has (or has not) provided.

Can a Physical Therapist Help Me with My Disability Claim?

How a Physical Therapist Can Help with Your Claim

If you are seeing a physical therapist and the physical therapy that you are receiving has not resulted in a significant improvement of your condition, your physical therapist can document this fact in your medical history.

He or she can also provide a written statement to the Social Security Administration regarding the prognosis of your condition and how likely it is that continued physical therapy will result in improvement or a future ability to work.

If physical therapy is a customary treatment for your disabling condition, it will be nearly impossible to obtain disability benefits without the help of a physical therapist. You will need this physical therapist to provide you with the physical therapy that is required to try to treat your condition.

Can a Physical Therapist Help Me with My Disability Claim?

The physical therapist who is treating you will need to keep detailed and accurate records regarding the physical therapy that you are receiving and will need to note how that therapy has impacted your condition, if it has had any impact at all.

If you have not yet been disabled for twelve months, the SSA adjudicator will need proof that your condition is expected to last at least one year. A physical therapist who has been treating your condition may be able to provide a prognosis in regards to how long your condition can be expected to last.

This may provide the SSA with the proof that is needed in order to determine how long you are expected to remain disabled.

Next Steps to Take

If you are already working with a physical therapist and are in need of Social Security Disability benefits, you should discuss your plans to file for disability with your physical therapist.

He or she can provide the Social Security Administration with a written statement regarding your condition and that statement will be considered when the adjudicator reviews your claim and decides whether or not you are eligible to receive the disability benefits you are applying for.

Can a Therapist Fill Out Disability Paperwork?

When you’re getting ready to submit a claim for disability benefits it helps to have as much medical evidence as possible supporting your claim. A physical therapist may be able to fill out paperwork for your disability benefits to help your case.

Having a physical therapist describe in detail what your injury is and how that injury makes it impossible for you to do your job or any other type of work can help your application for disability benefits get approved on the first try instead of having to appeal a denial.

The Social Security Administration may require that you see a physical therapist that is approved by them in order to have that physical therapist’s opinion recognized by the SSA. If that is the case, you can get a list of physical therapists in the area that are partnered with the SSA.

If your current physical therapist is not partnered with the SSA you may need to have your current physical therapist send your records to an SSA approved physical therapist before they will rule on your application.

Your physical therapist can write letters of support for your support application and describe for the SSA what the long term impact of your injury will be on your ability to work. If you need work accommodations or there are restrictions on the type of work that you can do that will be permanent because of your injury your physical therapist can verify that your ability to work is permanently damaged by the injury.

Can My Therapist Put Me On Disability?

When diagnosed with a disability it is great idea to have a physical therapist if you plan on applying for disability benefits. This not only shows that you have a disability but that it is painful enough for you to ask a physical therapist to help you manage your symptoms.

Also having a physical therapist means that the professional can provide medical evidence that is always needed for a disability benefits application.

Seeking treatment for your medical condition is important because health professionals including physical therapists play a crucial role in the disability determination process. They may be able to do the following:

  • provide medical evidence on behalf of patients;
  • provide results of examinations or tests conducted by the therapist;
  • they can also, as medical experts, testify at Administrative Law Judge (ALJ); hearings if an appeal of a disability benefits decision is required.

When an ALJ requires more evidence, the hearing office often coordinates with the DDS to get the evidence required. The hearing office may contact medical sources like a therapist directly. In a few circumstances, an ALJ might even issue a subpoena demanding that a therapist or other medical professional produces evidence or testimony at an ALJ hearing. This may be necessary to enable the ALJ to either support the appeal or deny the disability benefits claim.

If there is insufficient medical evidence from the claimant’s own medical records, the SSA, through the State DDS, could request that a consultative examination (CE) be performed by a licensed medical practitioner such as therapists, physicians and psychologists. All CEs conducted must be done by a licensed therapist in the State and have the training and experience to perform the CE required by the SSA.

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