When a disability prevents you from working, the Social Security Administration has the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs that pay monthly cash benefits and offer medical coverage. In order to qualify for either program, you must prove that you meet the definition of disability the SSA uses to determine eligibility.
A disability doctor letter can be an important part of the evidence that your disability lawyer at NY Disability Law uses to present and prove your claim for SSI or SSDI benefits. You may already have medical records supporting your claim, but more than two-thirds of people submitting applications for disability have their claims denied. The importance of disability doctor letters in making the difference between a successful outcome and a denial of benefits cannot be emphasized enough.
The following information offers helpful hints for working with your doctor to obtain a letter that will advance your claim. Other help is available from the disability lawyers at NY Disability Law.
Disability Definition Under The Social Security Act
Unlike state-funded programs and private disability plans that pay benefits for partial- or short-term disability, you must have a medically determinable physical or mental health impairment lasting for at least 12 months or expected to result in death in order to receive federal disability benefits through SSI or SSDI. Each program also has non-medical requirements that you must meet in order to qualify for benefits.
The SSDI program is for individuals who have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes on the money earned through jobs or self-employment. The SSI program does not have a work requirement, but it imposes strict limitations on income and resources that you can have available to you. For example, the total value of resources that you own may not exceed $2,000 for an individual.
The SSA reviews applications to determine whether they meet the non-medical eligibility criteria. Those that do are forwarded to the Disability Determination Services, which are agencies within each state that focuses on the medical evidence to determine if you have a disability that meets the federal definition.
Disability Determination Services reviews your application for disability benefits and the medical evidence supporting the claim. More specifically, the DDS claims analysts look for medical proof of an impairment and that it is severe enough to cause you to be disabled and unable to work, including:
- Physical examinations, including physician’s notes of findings
- Treatment recommendations
- Bloodwork and other laboratory results
- Reports of MRI, CT, X-ray and other diagnostic imaging
- Mental health evaluations and plans for counseling, medication and other forms of treatment
If a doctor recommends a course of treatment for a physical or mental impairment, the DDS reviews the records for evidence showing that you complied with the recommendations. A failure to follow a prescribed treatment plan could hurt your claim for disability benefits.
Meeting The Requirement Of Disability Doctor Letter
Unless one is requested by Social Security during the disability determination process, there is no requirement of disability doctor letter. However, your disability benefits lawyer at NY Disability Law may decide that a letter from your doctor may, in addition to the medical records and other evidence that you already have available, enhance the chance of approval of your application for benefits.
A disability doctor letter is a written statement from your treating physician or, in the case of an application based on claims of mental health impairment, a letter from the psychologist or psychiatrist who diagnosed your condition and oversees your treatment. The disability doctor letter adds strength to your claim with specific details about how a physical impairment, mental impairment, or combination of impairments affects your ability to engage in daily activities, including how it affects your ability to work.
The letter from your doctor will be based on the information contained in your medical records, but it goes beyond what can be found in the records to include specific details about how your medical condition affects you on a daily basis. The letter that your doctor creates will be general and vague and lacking in the details needed to build a strong claim unless you provide your doctor with honest and accurate information.
Meeting with your doctor solely for the purpose of obtaining a disability letter will not help your claim if you have missed appointments and failed to follow a recommended treatment plan. It is essential that you make and keep appointments according to the schedule recommended by your doctor and that you take medication and participate in treatment programs as prescribed, so you can inform the doctor of how you are responding to the treatment and medications between scheduled appointments.
A Disability Lawyer Can Help
A disability lawyer at NY Disability Law works with your treating physicians to ensure that the medical records and disability doctor letter support all elements of your claim for benefits. Learn more about your claim by contacting NY Disability Law for a free consultation.