Doctor with SSDI patientWhen you have a disabling injury or illness that prevents substantial gainful activity (SGA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can provide monthly payments that help make ends meet. Unfortunately, applying for SSDI can be a complicated, frustrating, and lengthy nightmare. The Social Security Administration (SSA) initially denies up to 70 percent of applicants. Oftentimes, these denials are due to a lack of sufficient medical evidence for your disabling condition and the work-related restrictions and limitations it causes.

If you’re applying for SSDI, having a doctor who’s familiar with the application process and has helped other patients complete it successfully isn’t strictly necessary, but it can be extremely beneficial. Here’s what you need to know about applying for SSDI benefits, including how working with an experienced doctor and disability attorney when submitting the application may increase your chances for approval.

Understanding Your Doctor’s Role in Your SSDI Claim

To qualify for SSDI, you must have an injury, illness, or other medically determinable impairment that prevents you from working enough to earn above the SGA limit. (Though SGA changes with the national average wage index, in 2023, it was $1,470 per month for most applicants and $2,460 for blind claimants.) Additionally, the condition must be severe enough to last for at least a year or be expected to result in death.

Proving you’re disabled and eligible for SSDI benefits is no small feat. It requires your doctor (and you) to submit extensive medical evidence to the SSA, including medical records, test results, and notes related to your diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Specifically, your application should contain a medical source statement from your doctor that:

  • Includes a list of your diagnosed medical conditions that negatively affect your ability to perform work and SGA
  • Explains whether your condition meets or equals the criteria for a qualifying disability in the SSA’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments
  • Describes your residual functional capacity (RFC) -- or the most you can do despite your limitations
  • States whether symptoms or complications of your condition causes you to miss work regularly 
  • Lists any side effects you’ve experienced from your prescribed treatments that had a negative impact on work ability or performance 

The SSA tends to give greater weight to the opinions of medical specialists than general practitioners. How can you ensure that your medical source statement is as effective as possible? Make sure it includes a plethora of detailed information and comes from an appropriately licensed or certified medical professional.

The Benefits of Working With a Doctor With SSDI Experience When Applying for Disability 

The SSA asks a lot of doctors who are already burdened with busy schedules and mountains of paperwork. Healthcare providers who haven’t previously helped patients through the grueling SSDI application process can face a steep learning curve. As a result, there are numerous benefits to having a doctor who’s been around the block, including:

  • Familiarity with SSDI eligibility requirements, the application process, and forms
  • Knows what specialized tests you need to prove the existence and severity of your condition to the SSA
  • Knows how to convey symptoms, limitations, and restrictions, and their effects on your ability to work in a way that the SSA expects and can evaluate

How a Seasoned Disability Attorney Can Help Your SSDI Claim

Your doctor isn’t the only professional whose help you may need when applying for SSDI. A skilled disability lawyer can explain the complex application process, help you gather the necessary medical evidence, ensure your application is free of mistakes that could result in a delayed decision or denial of your claim, and much more. There’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Find out how to get the adept legal help you deserve.

Schedule a Consultation

Complete the online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to get your SSDI questions answered by a member of Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished Boston legal team during a free initial consultation. For more information, request a complimentary download of our guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.


John L. Keefe
Connect with me
Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer