How to Get a Great Disability Letter from Your Doctor

Artwork: Robin Mead

A letter from your doctor can make a big difference in your case. But you don’t just want any letter. You want a GREAT one. Here’s a few things you can try:

🍭 Try Talking to Your Doc

Before you ask for a letter, it’s a great idea to find out if your doc supports your application. Here’s some ideas for How to Have “The Talk”.

🍭 Try Asking for Something Different

Many people ask for an RFC form instead of a letter. Either a letter or an RFC form can be good. Occasionally we hear from someone who gets both, but that may be too much to hope for.

🍭 Try Troubleshooting

Some doctor’s refuse to write letters or fill out forms or have a policy of “no disability paperwork.” If your doctor has said this to you, do not give up hope! There are many things you can do that may help you still get a good letter: How To Get Your Doctor to Fill Out Paperwork When Your Doctor Won’t Fill Out Paperwork

🍭 Try Asking More than One Doctor

If you have seen more than one doctor, try asking them all! You never know who will write a great letter. (Hint: It may not be who you are expecting!)

🍭 Try Bringing a Sample

Many of our readers here report that bringing a sample letter was the only thing that worked for a doctor that does not like paperwork. Even doctor’s who said they absolutely never do disability paperwork were sometimes willing! See links to sample letters below.

Documents That Can Help Your Doctor

Your doc isn’t going to want to spend 10 hours collecting and combing through every medical record you ever had. And you are not going to want your doc to write a letter that leaves really important things out. You can save your doc a lot of time and energy and make sure your doc can quickly and easily find your important information. Try bringing one of these things:

🍭 A Medical Test List

It is usually safe to assume that your doctor will not remember/find every test or assessment you have ever taken. When you ask your doctor for a letter, it is a great if you can bring a copy of any important test results or (even better) a brief list of dates, locations, and outcomes for any test with abnormal results.

🍭 A Medical Overview

Holly did a great job of creating a synopsis of her medical history: Holly’s Fantastic Medical Synopsis for Disability A synopsis like this can be incredibly helpful for your doctor to see an overview of your medical history.

🍭 A Sample Letter

Your doctor may ask you if you can bring a sample draft of a letter, or you can offer to do this and ask your doctor if she would find this helpful. Here’s a few success stories: Daisy Gets a LetterDafodil Gets a Letter, and Zinnia Gets a Letter.

More sample letters: 21 Sample Doctor Letters for Disability.

When you ask for a letter, we would suggest that you do not hand your doc a big pile of papers. According to nearly all reports from readers here, that rarely goes well. Most of our readers reported that when they brought something brief that included all their information in one place, their doctor was appreciative and receptive. One or two pages is ideal.

Before preparing any of the above, you may find it helpful to collect all your medical records, including treatment notes: How to Collect All Your Medical Records. Your full medical records are different than what you see online.


Your Dream Letter

Many doctors know a lot about treatment, but know very little about Social Security policy and what information needs to be included in a letter. (They don’t teach this stuff in med school).

Some doctors don’t know what Social Security is looking for, so they just write down the diagnosis and say something like: “This patient is disabled and medically unable to work. I recommend they be approved for disability.”

This sounds like a great letter, but sadly, it will not help your disability case. Your ideal letter will also include three things:

🍭 The Right Signature – Signed by an MD or another kind of acceptable medical source. For mental health, signed by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. If your doc is not an acceptable medical source, you can try asking if they have a supervising physician who can co-sign the letter. For mental health, ask if the have a supervising psychologist or psychiatrist who can co-sign.

🍭 Information on Functioning – Your doctor’s medical opinion about how long and how well you can to walk, sit, stand, lift, carry, stoop, bend, and other functioning activities. Functioning may also include your ability to focus, concentrate and remember. If your letter does not include this kind of information, you can ask your doctor to fill out an RFC form as well.

🍭 Medical Evidence – The letter will mention or discuss an abnormal result on a lab test, an assessment test by a specialist, or a medical sign your doctor finds while examining you. If you do not yet have any medical evidence, here’s some info on how to get medical evidence.

Letters You Do Not Want

You do not want a letter from a doctor who does not support your disability application. Talk to your doctor first, and if your doctor does not agree you are disabled and does not want to write you a letter, be grateful that they told you. True story:

“Jim” knew that his doctor was not supportive, but requested a letter anyway. The doctor wrote, “I recommend Jim go back to work. Working will contribute to his recovery.” Once that letter went in his file, he was never able to get it back out. Jim’s doctor was wrong. Jim was not able to go back to work, and after his disability was denied, he became homeless.

What Do I Do If My Doctor Doesn’t Support My Disability Application? 

Using the Blue Book

This is super special, super advanced technique that you do not have to do. But it can work really well, so if you are plucky and want to give it a try, here’s How to Use the Blue Book to Get Approved for Disability

Success Stories!

If these ladies can do it, you can do it too.

🍭  Daisy Gets a Great Letter .”I had medical records from ten different docs over six years. But it turned out the most important evidence I had was that single letter.”

🍭  Sweet Pea Gets a Great LetterDon’t assume that our doctors are knowledgeable about Social Security and know what to do. We need to be our own advocates.”

🍭  Jasmine Gets a Great Letter “I discovered that you absolutely never know which doctor is going to be good at writing disability letters.”

🍭  Lotus Gets a Great Letter – This is one of the best letters we have ever seen. Includes an excellent chart that provides a complete medical description of how and why she cannot function and work, plus excellent information on medical evidence.

What Do You Think? 

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 

Updated May 2018. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

6 thoughts on “How to Get a Great Disability Letter from Your Doctor”

  1. Thank you for such an informative website. This information can change lives for the claimant as well as his or her family. You are doing a great service to the disabled community.
    Can you please help me with an additional question? Is it preferable to file an appeal after an initial denial from Social Security on the Social Security website or should I do that through paper.
    The reason I’m asking this without trying it out is because when I started filling my initial application on the Social Security website, it closed my account after a few days and would not let me create a new application. The Social Security office said I cannot file a new application through paperwork because I had already started it online. It took me several weeks to finally clear it out and get permission to file by paper. I hope this is not the case with the appeal.

    I Also, since you suggest a lot more papework than what Social Security usually allows to upload on its website, it is probably preferable to file via post.

    At the same time, filing via post has got our possibility of them is placing the records. Also, they sent me a letter which has reached me one and a half months late and so there are only 15 days left for me to file.


    1. Thank you for this great post Rohit. I think this will help others.

      You’ve listed everything perfectly, I don’t have much to add.

      Both ways are good. It’s helpful to get confirmation that it was received. If you apply online I think you should be able to print out their page saying it was complete and sent. By mail, you could send it certified with receipt. In person, you can hand deliver it to the local office and get a stamped receipt.

      once it is assigned to an adjudicator you can call that person and go over exactly which records they have so you are sure nothing was misplaced.

      Sounds like you have a smart approach to handling all this. Hope it goes great for you.


      1. Thank you for your response. How do I find out who is the adjudicator? I never knew that this information is public. As I mentioned, I already have an application that was denied. While I try to file an appeal, it would be good if I can find out what medical records they have. They have only listed some of them on the denial letter. If you can find a way to contact the adjudicator, I can try that and then hopefully have a better appeal. Thank you again


        1. Hi Rohit,

          If they only listed some of your files, that unfortunately may mean they did not collected all your records, which is very common. 😦

          Do you know if your state has a reconsideration stage?

          In some states, your next step is “request for reconsideration” and in some states it goes straight to “request a hearing.” Do you know what is the next step for you?


  2. I have found it helpful in the past to write one’s own letter, well worded and specific, and spaced in such a way that the doctor can even just sign what you present and slap it on his own letterhead – same visit. This approach (at least for my doctor at the time and I would assume for many others) saves them the hassle and time of having to dictate a letter on their own. They appreciate the efforts. Naturally the letter must be proficient, professional and something they would sign without worry.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s