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Doctor has taken me off work. Will I get approved?

Getting SSDI benefits is not as simple as getting a doctor’s note that you can no longer work. In fact, the Social Security Administration has many requirements for SSDI benefits which you must meet to be awarded benefits. Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “If the doctor has taken me off work does that mean I will automatically get approved for disability benefits?”

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Why a doctor’s note may not be enough to win SSDI benefits


To win SSDI benefits you must have a severe mental or physical health condition which does not allow you to perform any type of work for at least 12 continuous months. Unfortunately, just getting a doctor’s note or being taken off your job by a doctor does not guarantee that you will have met the requirements outlined above.

For instance, if the doctor said you could not work did he mean you could not work for 12 continuous months? Or, did he mean that you would simply miss a few weeks? If you will be recovered sufficiently to return to work within 12 continuous months you will not qualify for SSDI benefits, regardless of the severity of your current condition.

For example, if you have been involved in a serious car accident you may clearly be too injured to work right now. The question, however, is whether you will recover within 12 months sufficiently to return to some type of job.

Can you retrain for new work?


Another consideration is whether the doctor meant you cannot perform your current job or you are too disabled to perform any type of work. It is likely that a doctor might tell a construction worker with a severe back condition that they can no longer build houses. What the doctor may not talk about or include in their doctor’s recommendations is whether or not that same construction worker could retrain for new work, a question the Social Security Administration WILL consider.

When the SSA makes their disability determination (assuming you do not have a condition which meets or exceeds a listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments) they will determine whether or not your condition is so severe you cannot retrain for new work.

Let’s take the example of the construction worker. Although the doctor may tell him he can no longer build houses, the SSA will be more interested in whether he can retrain for less strenuous work. If the SSA believes the construction worker has the work skills, work history, and educational background to retrain and perform new work they can deny his claim, regardless of whether or not he can ever perform construction work.

What do I do if I get denied?


If your doctor believes you cannot work it is time to make sure you have the medical evidence to substantiate your claim. Have you had the appropriate testing done? Is there information in your medical file which specifically states what types of work activities you cannot perform? If not, it is time to talk to your doctor and gather the right evidence.
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