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What Role Does a Treating Doctor Play in Disability Determinations?

May 13, 2021

treating doctor in a disability claim

Medical records are key to be eligible for Social Security Disability. However, a treating doctor can also play an important role in a claimant’s ability to obtain disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) may consider a treating doctor’s opinions and recommendations when evaluating disability claims as long as it is well-supported by medical evidence.

Below, Dayes Law Firm discusses the role of a treating doctor in greater detail and the documentation and statements needed from your doctor in order to support your claim for disability benefits. We are well-versed in the SSA’s eligibility requirements to increase your chances of receiving an approval notice.  

An initial consultation is 100 percent free and comes with no risk or legal obligations. If you have a valid claim, our services are provided at no upfront cost to you. We only get paid if we help you get benefits.

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The Role of the Treating Doctor

For disability claims filed before March 2017, the SSA used to give special consideration to the opinions of a treating doctor. The role of the treating doctor is still important to a disability claim, but now the SSA evaluates all medical opinions on the same basis (treating doctors and Social Security doctors).

Treating doctors continue to be considered the medical professionals most capable of providing a detailed account of a claimant’s impairments. He or she can offer a unique perspective to the medical evidence that cannot be found just from objective medical findings or from reports of individual examinations (i.e. consultative examinations arranged by the SSA).

Information SSA Needs from a Treating Doctor

Your treating doctor can provide a variety of helpful information to the SSA about your disability claim:

  • Nature and severity of your condition
  • Extent and expected duration of your impairment
  • Ability to function on a regular basis
  • Response to prescribed treatments, including side effects
  • Ability to perform work tasks and daily living activities

Any observations and opinions from your treating doctor could be used to help the SSA determine the seriousness of your condition and decide whether to approve or deny you disability benefits.

If your claim has merit, an experienced Phoenix-based Social Security Disability lawyer at our firm is prepared to work with your treating doctor to ensure that any pertinent information is submitted. 

Opinions Concerning a Claimant’s Symptoms

The SSA understands that disability claimants are limited by their symptoms and that these symptoms can be subjective and difficult to quantify. Your treating doctor may be asked for his or her medical opinion regarding the nature and severity of your symptoms. This may also include providing details about what you can still do despite your impairment as well as any physical or mental limitations.  

The SSA will be looking for two things. Firstly, to see if your symptoms can be reasonably attributed to a medical diagnosis. Secondly, to see if your symptoms are as limiting as you claim and consistent with the medical evidence provided.

Performing Work-Related Tasks

The SSA does not require that a treating doctor have any special skills or training to offer a relevant opinion on a claimant’s ability to work. This includes performing basic work-related tasks, such as:

  • Lifting and carry objects
  • Standing and sitting (especially for long periods of time)
  • Walking
  • Pushing and pulling

In most cases, treating doctors who have developed an understanding of their claimants’ impairments can better assess whether a claimant is disabled or not. A treating doctor can provide more valuable insight than a specialist who may only see a claimant for a disability evaluation versus ongoing treatment.

Objective Medical Findings

Objective medical findings are visible, measurable findings obtained by medical examinations, tests or diagnostic imaging. These findings are necessary for disability claims but are not enough to prove the extent of a claimant’s disability.

The SSA also cannot determine a claimant’s capacity for working by only looking at objective medical findings if his or her impairment does not meet a listing found in the SSA’s Blue Book.   

What About Doctor’s Statements?

When you apply for disability benefits, the SSA may also request a statement or letter of support from your treating doctor. A written statement can offer additional insight and perspective in support of your claim. It should include a detailed explanation of your condition as well as your mental and physical limitations. In some cases, a statement or letter from your doctor may help you get approved for disability.     

Call Us to Discuss Filing or Disputing a Claim

Dayes Law Firm has helped many claimants over the years obtain the disability benefits they need. We are ready to help you file an initial application or dispute a denied claim. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team at no cost or obligation to you.

We charge no upfront fees for our services and no fees to take or work on a case.

Available 24/7. Call 1-800-503-2000

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