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

Medical Source Statements allow Treating Physicians to provide Social Security with information on functional limitations

Note: the link for the medical source statement PDF download is at the end of this article.

As this website repeatedly states, though disability claims take into account both medical and vocational information, they are largely won on the basis of medical evidence. And one of the most powerful pieces of medical evidence is a medical source statement completed by a claimant's treating physician, a physician who has an established history of providing medical treatment and, therefore, is in a position to provide a statement as to a patient's prognosis and current functional limitations.

As this website also repeatedly states, most disability claims are decided via a 5 step sequential evaluation process in which a claimant's current level of functional limitations (known as their residual functional capacity, or RFC) is compared to the requirements of their past jobs in order to A) determine if they can return to their past work and B) determine, along with other vocational factors, such as age, work skills, and education, whether they have the ability to perform some type of other work which they have never done before.

In the Social Security Disability and SSI disability system, a mere diagnosis of a condition may mean relatively little. In most cases, the outcome of a case at any level (application, reconsideration, hearing) will depend on how the claimant's condition, or conditions, affects and limits their ability to engage in work activity, i.e. their residual functional capacity which can be measured by a medical source statement that is completed by a claimant's treating physician.

Why are medical source statements so effective? The answer is that they elicit the type of information from a treating physician regarding functional limitations that medical records will generally not address.

In fact, it seems to be fairly rare that a physician, after seeing a patient, will make any reference in their notes as to how their patient is functionally affected by their medical condition. Yet this is the type of information that Social Security seeks in order to render decisions.

And when this specific information is not found in a claimant's medical records (usually the case), then it is left to a disability examiner and that examiner's unit medical consultant (an M.D. who is employed by DDS, or disability determination services, to provide input and consultation to disability examiners in their case processing unit) to decide, based on their reading of the medical records, what a person's residual functional capacity is...despite the fact that neither individual will ever have met the claimant and the DDS medical consultant will be formulating an opinion on records that may themselves lack the expression of an opinion on the part of the treating physician.

To anyone's eyes, an opinion obtained from a physician who has actually seen and treated the patient/claimant would have considerably more validity. Despite this, Social Security does not attempt to obtain medical source statements from claimants. Therefore, claimants who wish to have considered the written opinions of their physicians as to their functional limitations must obtain such statements themselves. Unfortunately, when they do so, it is often the case that their physician, who likely has no understanding of how the disability system works, simply supplies a short statement indicating that their patient is disabled and unable to work, with no mention of functional limitations, thus rendering the doctor's statement practically useless.

The PDF download of this medical source statement example provides a good example of the type of information that should be obtained from a claimant's treating physician.

Note: this download will appear on a monitor as a low resolution scan of an existing document but should appear better in printed form.

Medical source statement example, PDF download

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

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

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?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

Should you get a Statement from a Personal Physician for your SSD or SSI Disability Case?
Medical Source Statement for Social Security Disability or SSI
Will Social Security Attempt To Get A Letter From Your Doctor To Help Your Case?
How does a Medical Source Statement (RFC Form) help win a Social Security Disability or SSI Claim?
Social Security Disability Doctor, Supportive Statements

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

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?

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.