Social Security Disability Resource Center

Social Security Disability Doctor, Supportive Statements

Most applicants who file for Social Security Disability (SSD) or SSI do so as a last resort—they simply are unable to earn a living due to their physical or mental condition. In many cases their treating physician, the one who is in the best position to evaluate their functional limitations and to give a prognosis (how the impairment will progress over time) agrees that the medical condition is both severe and disabling. Yet, how much weight does one’s treating physician carry in the disability determination process? Sadly, at least at the first two levels of consideration, not enough.

Decisions on initial disability applications and first appeals (requests for reconsideration) are decided by disability examiners who work for the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) agency. These examiners are under an enormous amount of pressure to keep their total number of approvals down; they give little consideration to reports from treating physicians because the reports typically support the case for disability.

DDS examiners are subject to “quality control” reviews, and if they hand out too many approvals they will probably find themselves out of a job.

However, supportive statements from treating physicians can be very important to claimants who file a second appeal. The second appeal is decided at a disability hearing by a federal administrative law judge (ALJ), who is not employed by DDS, and thus is not subject to the same pressure to deny disability claims. Perhaps because they do not feel the same pressure to deny claims, disability judges tend to give great weight to the opinions of claimants’ treating physicians, and are statistically far more likely to approve SSD/SSI claims than disability examiners: about half of all disability claims denied by DDS are later approved by an ALJ at the hearing level.

So, having a supportive opinion from a doctor can make or break a disability case if it has reached the hearing level, though the exact same opinion will have little if any impact on the decision of a disability examiner.

This is no accident: the entire disability determination process is designed to frustrate and discourage applicants, and the strategy works. Most individuals who are denied disability benefits do not appeal, or at least do not appeal to the hearing level, at which they stand their best chance of winning.

Claimants with severe mental or physical medical conditions who have the support of their treating physicians are in a good position to win Social Security disability benefits—if they have the stamina to see their claims through to the second level of appeal, a disability hearing before a judge.


Should you get a Statement from a doctor for your Disability Case?
Sample medical source statement PDF download

  • Index of Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

  • 56 Answers to Social Security Disability SSI Questions

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability and SSI Back Pay Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    How long does it take for Social Security Disability or SSI?

    Social Security Disability SSI Awards and Award Notices

    Tips, Mistakes, How to Qualify, and How to Win Disability

    Tips and Advice for Social Security Disability and SSI Claims

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify for Disability Benefits

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI, How to Win

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Social Security Disability and SSI Appeal Process - How to file appeals

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    SSI Disability Benefits, Questions and Answers

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Information to start with regarding Disability Claims

    An Overview of Social Security Disability and SSI

    What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?

    The Disability Requirements to be eligible for SSD and SSI Benefits

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability and SSI Applications

    Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions and Impairments

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    The SSDRC Disability Blog

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    Getting disability in North Carolina

    Related pages:

    A "proper" statement from your doctor can have a dramatic effect on your disability case
    Should you get a Statement from a Personal Physician for your SSD or SSI Disability Case?
    Will my doctor charge me for a letter for my social security disability claim?
    Will Social Security Attempt To Get A Letter From Your Doctor To Help Your Case?
    Letters from doctors for Social Security Disability
    Social Security Disability Doctor, Supportive Statements

    Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

    These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

    Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
    How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
    Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
    What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
    How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
    How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
    Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
    Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria