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Do I need a doctors note to qualify for SSA Disability?

One of the most common questions we get from disability claimants is, “Do I need a doctors note stating I am disabled?” This question may also be followed up by frustration and irritation that a doctor will not provide more information for the claimant’s disability application.

The good news is that the SSA does not expect a doctor to complete the SSDI application or SSI application for you or provide a doctors note; in fact, the SSA will rely on existing medical records to make their disability determination. The bad news is that many SSDI and SSI claimants lack the necessary medical records to prove they are disabled with a severe health condition which will not allow them to work for at least 12 continuous months.

What information will the SSA consider to make their disability determination?

After you submit your SSDI or SSI application, assuming you meet the nonmedical requirements of SSDI or SSI, the SSA will send your disability file to the disability determination office (DDS) for a medical review.

At this point the Social Security Administration will request information from your doctors, caseworkers, therapists, counselors, psychologists, and hospitals. There is no expectation that your doctor has written any type of “note” stating you are disabled. In fact, many claimants are under the false assumption that a disability note from their doctor should be sufficient to find them disabled, but this is not necessarily the case either, especially if there is conflicting medical evidence from other treating sources or medical tests which claim the claimant is not disabled or they can work.

Can my doctor provide a doctors note or complete additional information for my case?

If you have a doctor who is willing to provide information for your SSDI or SSI, who wants to write a doctors note or who wants to fill out a disability statement it is important to have them list specific limitations caused by your disability. One of the most effective forms used by many claimants is called a Residual Functional Capacity form. This form is especially useful because it identifies specific work limitations.

Keep in mind, there are two different types of Residual Functional Capacity Forms: physical and mental. Each of these forms can be downloaded online by googling Residual capacity forms. If you have a physical limitation you need to download the one which will clearly outline your physical limitations.

Questions included on a physical RFC form include:

  1. How much weight can you life or carry?

  2. How long can you sit/stand/walk?

  3. How well can you use your hands?

  4. How well can you use your feet?

  5. Do you need a cane or assistance to ambulate?

  6. Do you have limitations in your postural activities?

  7. Do you have hearing or visual limitations?

  8. Do you have environmental limitations?

  9. Does the claimant have limitations in their daily activities of living?

The information provided on this form can help the SSA determine if you are capable of working sedentary, light, medium, or heavy work. This will be especially useful if the SSA needs to use their medical vocational allowance process to determine if you can work your past job, current job or retrain for new work.

Keep in mind the SSA will expect that the limitations outlined by your doctor will be supported by other types of medical evidence in your medical files such as x-rays, MRIs, blood work, laboratory tests, range of motion tests, etc.
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