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A Letter From Your Doctor About Your Claim For Social Security Disability Benefits-
Physical Impairments

By R. M. Bottger 

     When you apply for Social Security disability benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will, of course, want copies of all of your medical records. You may also want to have your doctor write a letter specifically for the Social Security Administration regarding your application for Social Security disability benefits.  If you choose to have your doctor write such a letter, here is the kind of information that will help increase your chances of qualifying for Social Security disability benefits.

     First of all, make sure your name and Social Security number are clearly marked on the letter from your doctor regarding your Social Security disability benefits. Every week when I was a disability determination specialist, the office where I worked would receive copies of medical records in which the identity of the person applying for Social Security disability benefits could not be determined.  Medical records that never make it to your file will not help you application for Social Security disability benefits.   Anything you send to the Social Security Administration regarding your application for Social Security disability benefits should always have your name and Social Security number clearly marked on it.

      When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will want copies of all of your medical records; therefore, your doctor does not need to spend a lot of time repeating information that is already contained in your records. (See What Medical Records Should You Submit When You Apply for Disability Benefits?) A simple statement such as this at the beginning of the letter will suffice:

     “Ms. Johnson suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. I have enclosed copies of all of her medical records including copies of all testing and treatment notes.”

      Many people submit letters from their doctors that make statements such as “Mr. Smith is permanently, totally disabled” or “Ms. Jones is unable to do any type of work.” Although such statements do not hurt your application for Social Security disability benefits, they do not help your case for Social Security disability benefits either. Just because your doctor states that you are disabled does not mean that the Social Security Administration will agree. Doctors vary greatly in their ideas about how severe an impairment has to be in order to be disabling. The Social Security Administration will make its own decision as to whether you qualify for Social Security disability benefits based on its own laws and regulations.

      The information that will most help your case for Social Security disability benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits is a statement of your doctor’s opinion about how your condition limits your ability to do work-related functions. (See How Your Condition Affects Your Ability to Function: The Key to Disability Benefits.) The Social Security Administration calls this a medical source statement (MSS). The MSS carries special weight with the Social Security Administration. The physical work-related functions that the Social Security Administration is concerned with are:
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·        The weight you can frequently lift and carry

·        The weight you can occasionally lift and carry

·        How many hours you can stand and walk out of an 8 hour day

·        How many hours you can sit out of an 8 hour day

·        Your ability to push and pull hand and foot controls

·        Climbing

·        Balancing

·        Stooping

·        Kneeling

·        Crouching

·        Crawling

·        Reaching all directions including overhead

·        Handling (gross manipulation)

·        Fingering (fine manipulation)

·        Feeling (skin receptors)

·        Vision-near acuity

·        Vision-far acuity

·        Vision-depth perception

·        Vision-accommodation

·        Vision-color vision

·        Vision-field of vision

·        Hearing

·        Speaking

·        Environmental limitations-extreme cold

·        Environmental limitations-extreme heat

·        Environmental limitations-wetness

·        Environmental limitations-humidity

·        Environmental limitations-noise

·        Environmental limitations-vibration

·        Environmental limitations-fumes, odors, dust, gases, poor ventilation, etc.

·        Environmental limitations-hazards (heights and machinery)

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When writing a letter regarding your application for Social Security disability benefits, your doctor should be very specific about how your condition limits you work-related activities. An example of a good MSS is:

“Because of the pain and limited range of motion due to rheumatoid arthritis, Ms. Johnson is unable to lift more than 10 pounds on an occasional basis and 5 pounds on a frequent basis. She can stand and walk less than two hours out of an eight hour day. She is limited to occasional stooping. Because her grip strength is only 2 out of 5, she has limited gross manipulation. For example, she is unable to use a hammer. She is unable to oppose her thumb to her index finger; therefore, her fine manipulation is limited. She is unable to fasten buttons or zippers. Because of limited range of motion in her shoulders, she is unable to reach overhead.”

           The Social Security Administration will usually accept whatever limitations that the treating physician says the disability claimant has as long as the limitations are reasonable.  A detailed statement from your doctor about your functional limitations can make a big difference in the outcome of your claim for Social Security disability benefits.

 

 

 

  

 

  

  


 
 

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