How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Do doctors understand what Social Security means by disability?

A statement from a forum: "Doctors usually don't understand the fact that there is real difference between being medically diagnosed as "disabled", and the government's legal definition of disability".

Actually, there's a lot of truth in this statement. Over the years, I've encountered numerous physicians who seemed to think that if they simply give their patient a piece of paper stating "patient is disabled and unable to work" then the social security administration would roll over and issue a disability approval.

Obviously, it doesn't work that way, but what is a bit amazing is the fact that any physician would actually think for one moment that it does, and that the issuance of a short statement that says nothing about a claimant's functional limitations would be enough to win a disability case.

Let me clarify a couple of points. The social security administration makes decisions on disability cases by reviewing and evaluating medical evidence. And this includes statements from physicians. However, the type of evidence that both disability examiners and administrative law judges (hearings are held and decided by these federally appointed judges) are looking for and need is documentation that indicates a claimant's level of severity and level of functional limitation.

So, when a doctor submits a statement that says "my patient is 100% disabled", what does that mean, really? In actuality, it means nothing to someone making a decision on a disability case. Why? Because in order for Social Security Disability or SSI disability benefits to be approved, it must be clear that a claimant cannot perform work activity that earns more than substantial gainful activity while engaging in either their past work or in some form of other work.

And the only way to arrive at such a determination is by first assessing what a claimant can or cannot do, i.e. their residual functional capacity. By doing this, a disability examiner or disability judge can determine whether or not a claimant return to their past work, or perform some other type of work.

So, what type of medical record documentation helps a disability adjudicator the most? Obviously, detailed documentation that makes reference to what a patient can or cannot do. For example, the ability or inability to: sit, stand, crouch, stoop, reach, lift, walk, hear, see, etc, etc.

Unfortunately, this is not the type of approach that most doctors take when it comes to compiling their treatment notes. And, in fact, sometimes, it is extremely difficult for an adjudicator to find anything in the medical records that even hints of a patient's functional limitations.

However, when a doctor submits a statement to social security on behalf of a patient, they have opportunity to rectify this by citing their patient's residual functional capacity (translation - what they are still capable of doing despite the effects of their impairment or impairments).

Therefore, if you plan to obtain a statement from a physician in support of your case, try to make it clear to the physician that the statement needs to be detailed in the sense of providing commentary regarding your functional capacity and limitations; otherwise, the doctor's statement may be next to useless.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

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Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

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Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

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Social Security Disability SSI definitions

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New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

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Related pages:

Social Security Definition of disability for a child
24 month waiting period and Social Security Disability
How your past work affects your Social Security Disability or SSI decision?
How to file for disability in Maryland
Time on a Social Security Disability Decision
Appealing a denial of Social Security Disability or SSI
How long does your condition have to last to qualify for disability?
What SSA means by disabled and disability
How to apply for disability for a child or children
How much does disability pay?
How long will you get disability after an award notice?
If Social Security sends you to a psychiatrist
How to file for disability in Alabama
SSD, SSDI, SSI impairments list
Filing for disability with psoriatic arthritis

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

How and why to check Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability back pay
Non medical requirements for disability
Qualifying for disability, SSD SSI
When does social security consider you eligible for disability benefits?
Who qualifies for SSI?
Forms to complete when filing, applying for disability
How long does SSDI and SSI disability take to get?
Filing for disability with Depression
Can You Get Approved For SSI or SSD Benefits with a Mental Condition
How long for a disability judge to make a decision?
While you are in your disability interview
The SSD and SSI definition of disability
Filing for disability with carpal tunnel syndrome
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Can you work if you get a disability check?
Disability application denied
File for disability, the application
How to get disability benefits
Conditions that get approved for disability
How to Appeal a disability claim denial from Social Security

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.