When you file for Social Security disability, the process involves more people than just you and your legal representation. One of the individuals who can play a big part in determining whether or not you receive benefits is your doctor.
Having a good doctor throughout your claims process is extremely important. When you have a disability, the Social Security Administration will expect that you are scheduling and attending regular doctor’s appointments. You will need to follow all of your doctor’s recommendations and explore all possible treatment options—essentially, you need to be doing everything you can to get better or manage your disability. Otherwise, the SSA will think that you do not take your situation seriously. If you are “not disabled enough” to need to see a doctor regularly, then you are likely “not disabled enough” to qualify for disability benefits.
During your treatment, it is important that you work with your doctor(s) to help them understand the type of medical information the Social Security Administration will look for. Your doctor should keep as detailed of notes as possible, recording all of your symptoms, pains, and complaints during your treatment. You can ask your doctor(s) to fill out a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. The RFC form works as a condition-specific questionnaire that asks your doctor the type of to-the-point questions the Social Security Administration will want to know the answers to. Such questions will include, “How far can the patient walk non-stop?,” “How long can the patient sit?,” and “What is the maximum weight the patient can lift consistently?” The RFC form is not advertised by the Social Security Administration, as it is extremely helpful to claimants and can help form a strong basis for a case. If your doctor fills out and submits an RFC form to the SSA, it will help fill in gaps left by your medical records.
Typically, the longer your doctor has been treating you, the more weight the SSA gives to their opinion. If at all possible, you should receive disability treatment from the same doctor you have been seeing for years, or your “treating doctor.” If you can establish an ongoing relationship with this treating physician, the SSA will be forced to defer to their opinion of your condition.
According to nolo.com, medical sources accepted by the SSA include:
- licensed medical or osteopathic doctors
- licensed or certified psychologists
- licensed optometrists, for purposes of establishing visual disorders only
- licensed podiatrists, for purposes of establishing impairments of the foot or ankle only
- qualified speech language pathologists, for purposes of establishing speech or language impairments only
If your treating doctor is not one of these sources accepted by the SSA, their opinions may not automatically be discarded. If this doctor has been working with you for years and can vouch for your conditions, the SSA may also defer to their opinion.