In Social Security Disability (SSD) claims, your doctor plays a crucial part – one that, essentially, helps prove your case.
On a very basic level, your doctor’s statements and supporting evidence show how your conditions meet the requirements for a disability and whether you have the residual functional capacity (RFC) to work.
On the other hand, SSD cases aren’t as simple as getting a doctor’s opinion and receiving compensation. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers multiple factors, and in terms of a medical opinion, your doctor’s credentials, your relationship with your doctor, how he or she composes the statement, and the rest of the evidence are given various degrees of weight in the outcome.
As well, who your doctor is and his or her approach to submitting evidence significantly contribute to your case.
An “Acceptable Medical Source”
The SSA considers a doctor’s opinion only if it comes from an “acceptable medical source.” This may be:
- A licensed medical or osteopathic doctor
- A licensed or certified psychologist
- A licensed optometrist
- A licensed podiatrist
- A qualified speech language pathologist
If a medical professional falling outside these requirements – say, from a chiropractor or a nurse – provides a statement, the SSA either disregards it or uses it only to determine the severity of the disability.
Along with these factors, the SSA is said to give the doctor’s statement more influence if he or she provides regular treatment or has an established, ongoing relationship with the patient.
The Statement and RFC Form
Your doctor’s statement is imperative to your claim, particularly in describing the disability and your limitations. The document indicates to the SSA how your disability meets an accepted listing, how long the impairment is expected to last, and what your limitations are.
Nevertheless, a statement is often not sufficient on its own. The SSA further recommends claimants to submit an RFC form, a lengthy document with questions covering the details of your condition. Because filling it out is a time-consuming task, your doctor may charge a fee.
It’s a misconception that a doctor just has to declare a claimant has a disability, and the SSA will issue a check. While the doctor is essential to the process, winning your claim or appeal is often contingent on the evidence provided. Clinical observations, test results, and more medical findings must support how the doctor arrived at the conclusion in the statement and RFC form.
Keep in mind that, while your doctor is a keystone to the process, the Disability Determining Services (DDS) examiner has the final say in your claim. While the DDS does not examine the claimant, this department of a physician or psychologist and a disability examiner reviews your doctor’s statements and determines if the evidence provided supports them.