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Is there a list of doctors who determine disability?

Recently on our forum we had the question, “Is there a list of doctors who perform medical evaluations and determine if I am disabled?” This question is closely tied to other similar questions such as, “When will the SSA send me for my disability examination?” and “Does the SSA provide medical care for my condition?” Each of these questions make an incorrect assumption: you should wait around until the SSA sends you to some “preferred” doctor and wait until they decide if you should get SSI or SSDI benefits.

Mistake one is waiting for the SSA to do anything. To answer the question posted above, no, the SSA does not provide any type of medical care for you, and they do not have a list of doctors that all disability applicants must see to win SSDI or SSI benefits.

How do I get approved for SSDI or SSI benefits?

So how do you get approved for SSI or SSDI disability benefits? The first thing to do is see great doctors who can provide good medical care for your condition and who are willing to clearly document your functional limitations to work. Doctors do not have to do anything special for your case, but it is important they do not do the following:

  1. State in your medical records that there is nothing wrong with you and you can work.

  2. Write illegibly and make it difficult to read your medical files. This is actually a very common problem, and many medical records are completely disregarded by the SSA or the administrative law judge because they cannot be read. This problem has been reduced in recent years with the increased use of electronic, records but it continues to be an issue for many SSDI or SSI applicants.

Many applicants ask if they have to have a note from their doctor stating they are disabled. No, you do not. Many disability applicants win SSI and SSDI benefits without much support from their doctor. But if your doctor writes that you are not disabled or that you can work full-time in your medical records than hurts your disability case.

If the SSA does not have a list of doctors than whom do I go see?

The SSA will review your medical records from all of your treating sources to determine if you are disabled. According to the SSA, information from all of your “acceptable” medical sources will be reviewed. Acceptable medical sources include medical and osteopathic doctors (including psychiatrists), psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists and speech-language pathologists.

Medical information will vary by condition, but most applicants will have a variety of medical reports including information about their medical history, clinical reports, laboratory reports, information about their diagnosis, treatment history and their medical prognosis.

Additional information that you can request from your doctor, that they may or may not be willing to provide, is information about your physical and mental capacity to work. There are forms which can be sent to doctors called residual functional capacity forms (RFC forms) which detail your ability to complete work-related activities such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, handling objects, hearing, speaking, and traveling. If you are suffering from a mental disorder you could have your mental health doctor document your ability to understand, remember instructions, carry out tasks, and respond appropriately to supervision and co-workers.

So what’s the bottom line?

To win SSDI or SSI benefits do not wait for the SSA to send you see a “special” doctors. There is not a list of pre-approved doctors who are making disability determination decisions. The SSA may send you to a consultative examiner who may perform a cursory review of your health condition but only if you do not have sufficient medical evidence to prove you are disabled, and this review should not be considered “medical care.” This examination also seldom helps you win SSI or SSDI. It is time to find your own doctor and get the medical records you need.