Can my doctor help me when I file for Social Security disability?

Your treating doctor can help without having to come to your hearing and testify.  In fact, doctors rarely do that.  They are too busy seeing patients to come to your Social Security disability hearing.

Also,  a doctor does not have to write a letter that says:

“My patient is disabled.”

In fact, that kind of help is no help at all.  Instead, you can ask your doctor to write a statement that is very specific about your medical condition. There are two kinds of useful statements.

Do you meet or equal a listing?

Social Security has a list of medical conditions which are considered per se disabling.  The list is organized by body systems.  See the list below.

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Special Senses and Speech
  • Respiratory System
  • Cardiovascular
  • Digestive
  • Genitourinary
  • Hematological
  • Skin
  • Endocrine
  • Multiple Body Systems (non-mosaic Down syndrome)
  • Neurological
  • Mental
  • Malignant Neoplastic diseases (Cancers)
  • Immune system

If you have a medical condition (or a combination) that is listed, your doctor can review the listing and provide a statement regarding the criteria of the listing and your medical findings.  Here is an example:  One of the listings for a spinal cord disorder requires the following:

1.04A A disorder of the spine (such as a herniated nucleus pulposus, etc.), resulting in compromise fo a nerve root or the spinal cord, with evidence of nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine).

As you can see, meeting a listing isn’t common.  There are often numerous significant medical findings associated with a per se disabling condition.

You may have all of these elements.  Even if you don’t, you may be close or you may have other medical findings that are of equal significance.  You can show the listing to your doctor to get an idea of where you stand on any listed impairment.

What are your abilities and limitations?

Another type of statement your doctor can provide is about your abilities and limitations.  An easy way to do this is to ask your doctor to complete a checklist which asks specific questions about the kinds of limitations that might be associated with your condition.  You can download a couple of standard forms at the widget here.  (If you have scrolled down to this article and cannot view the widget, just click on the title to view only this article.  The widget should appear.)

These forms can be very helpful.  Social Security decision makers are required to give these statements very careful consideration.  In fact, under certain circumstances, the decision maker may have to accept the statement.  SSR 96-2 states:

If a treating source’s medical opinion is well-supported and not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in the case record, it must be given controlling weight, i.e. it must be adopted.

But even if not entitled to controlling weight, the statement must still be properly considered using the following factors:

  • examining relationship
  • treatment relationship
  • length of the treatment relationship and the frequency of examination
  • nature and extent of the treatment relationship
  • supportability
  • consistency
  • specialization
  • other factors (you bring to our attention)

Obviously, the longer you have treated with your doctor and the more he/she knows about your health, the better.  If your doctor is a specialist and/or examines you frequently, those kinds of factors lend weight and credibility to what your doctor says about what you can do and what you should be restricted from doing.

These rules and regulations are very important in Social Security law.  Not all Social Security decision makers like them.  Some feel that they are supposed to decide if you are disabled, not your doctor.  But the regulations state that a treating doctor is

likely to be the medical professional most able to provide a detailed, longitudinal picture of your medical impairment(s) and may bring a unique perspective to the medical evidence that cannot be obtained from the objective medical findings alone or from reports of individual examinations, such as consultative examinations or brief hospitalizations.

Your doctor’s involvement in your Social Security claim cannot be ignored, particularly when he/she provides a medical opinion that is well supported by the treatment record.

If you need more help with Social Security Disability, Call toll free at 1-800-481-0302.  Or visit our website.