The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application process is notoriously difficult, with the Social Security Administration (SSA) denying up to 70 percent of initial claims. Though a doctor’s letter isn’t a required part of the application, providing a well-written one can strengthen your disability claim and improve your chances of being approved for benefits. Before you ask your doctor to write a letter for your SSDI application, here’s what you need to know to ensure it’s as effective as possible, including how the experienced attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you get the evidence and information you need.
How a Detailed Letter From Your Doctor Can Help Your Social Security Disability Claim
The disability examiners evaluating your claim need to see a copious amount of evidence for your disabling medical impairment. Unfortunately, even the most thorough medical records don’t always paint a clear picture of what living with your condition entails. A detailed letter from your doctor – also known as a medical source statement – can help the examiner better understand your disability and how its symptoms affect your everyday life and ability to work and engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA).
How to Ensure Your Doctor’s Letter Is as Effective as Possible
A vague letter that says you’re disabled and shouldn’t work is unlikely to carry much weight with the SSA. Medical source statements are much more effective when they contain in-depth information on your condition and resulting limitations. It should come from your primary care doctor – ideally, with whom you’ve had a long doctor-patient relationship. A thorough doctor’s letter might include the following:
- The formal diagnosis
- A detailed description of your condition
- The disability’s onset date
- Diagnostic procedures used to diagnose your condition (and exclude illnesses with similar symptoms)
- Symptoms you experience, and their effects on your daily life and ability to work
- Treatments you’ve tried and whether they were successful in helping mitigate the condition’s negative effects
- Outlook and prognosis for your disability, including whether it’s expected to improve or worsen over time
- An assessment of your reflexes, dexterity, and range of motion
- Whether – and how well – you're able to complete routine or repetitive tasks; use your hands and arms to reach, grasp, and lift; or stand, crouch, sit, stoop, walk, or kneel
- An explanation of how the objective medical evidence supports their professional opinion
Medical Evidence Can Make or Break Your SSDI Claim
Medical evidence supporting the existence, severity, and expected duration of a disabling injury, illness, or other impairment is the cornerstone of a successful claim for SSDI benefits. Your application should include things like physical examination and treatment notes, bloodwork panel results, mental health records, imaging study reports of MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays, and any other documentation needed to meet or equal an entry in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. Applications without sufficient medical evidence are universally rejected.
However, the evidence provided can’t come from just anywhere or anyone. The SSA requires that medical evidence comes from acceptable medical sources (AMS), such as licensed medical or osteopathic doctors, or licensed or certified psychologists at the independent practice level. Additionally, appropriately-licensed or certified optometrists, podiatrists, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, physicians' assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses (including certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and clinical nurse specialists) are considered AMS for claims related to their field of practice.
How an Experienced Disability Attorney Can Help You Get a Letter From Your Doctor
Applying for SSDI isn’t easy. Not only is the application process unfamiliar and intimidating, but gathering all the medical evidence needed to support your claim can be time-consuming. When you’re undergoing treatment for a disabling health condition and feel your worst, the last thing you should have to worry about is whether you can convince your doctor to take time out of their busy schedule to write a detailed medical source statement. Let Keefe Disability Law’s seasoned SSDI attorneys help prepare your application and work with your doctor to get the necessary notes and documentation.
Schedule a Consultation
Have questions about how Keefe Disability Law can help you complete your SSDI application or obtain a medical source statement from your doctor? Fill out the contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.