Can your doctor help you get your disability?

There is no question that your doctor can help you win your disability benefits. However, the doctor must actually be your doctor, someone who has seen you for a period of time, not just a doctor that you've only gone to once for some illness or issue.

Social Security tends to look at signed statements and medical records from a person's "treating physician" differently than if they came from, for example, an emergency room or urgent care doctor.

What is a treating physician? (this page How Important is the Treating Physician to a Social Security Disability or SSI case? helps define this). A treating physician is someone who either presently, or in the past, has provided medical treatment to a disability claimant in the context of an ongoing relationship.

As we've discussed, what this means is that the doctor you may have seen just once for a particular condition cannot be considered as a treating physician by either a disability examiner or a disability judge. And, as a consequence of this, the information they provide to social security may not carry as much weight as the information provided by a physician who has, or has had, an established history of providing you medical treatment.

A doctor who has a history of seeing you, diagnosing your condition, tracking its progress, and treating it will be in the position of providing an opinion that Social Security will consider to be valid. And this, of course, can lead to an approval for disability, particularly when the doctor has provided something known as a medical source statement.

When a doctor does not complete a medical source statement, but, instead, a less formal type of statement for their patient's disability claim, attention should be given to the concerns listed on this page: What a statement from a doctor should say for a disability case.

Of course, all of this discussion goes back to what most claimant's disability representatives and lawyers advise their clients to do: to strengthen your case, you should continue to receive medical treatment from those who have a history of treating you (for the purpose of further developing the medical record).

However, it also touches on something else, something a bit more tactical which is "don't keep bouncing from one doctor to the next, because, in the end, the doctors that you only see once or twice will not be in a position to issue an authoritative statement regarding your functional limitations. In other words, the quality of your medical records can influence the chances of being approved versus denied for Social Security Disability or SSI.


1. Will Social Security listen to what my doctor says?
2. Will Social Security Attempt To Get A Letter From Your Doctor?
3. A statement from your doctor can help your disability case
4. Proving a Disability Case Often Means Getting a Statement or letter from a Doctor

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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