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 Bringing a Sample Letter

Sometimes it helps a lot to bring a sample letter to your doctor. This can help your doctor see the type of information Social Security is looking for. Here’s where you can find Sample Doctor Letters for Disability

🍭 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 Assuming Your Doc Knows Nothing

Many doctors know a lot about treatment, but know very little about Social Security policy. (They don’t teach this stuff in med school). Even a very smart, very supportive doctor may not know the correct things to put in a letter like this. You would not believe some of the weird letters I have seen!

🍭 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”. Please please please (please!) do not ask a doctor for a letter if she does not support your application. One reader here did this and the doctor wrote, “I recommend he go back to work.” Once that letter went in his file, he was never able to get it back out.

🍭 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 I meet someone who gets both, but that may be too much to hope for.

🍭 Try Making a 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. If you only have one or two abnormal test results, do not worry. Many people are able to get approved with just a few test results, plus strong support from their doctor. Your list can also include any medical signs noted in your records.

🍭 Try to Keep it Brief

When you ask your doctor to write you 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 really never goes well. One sample letter is a good idea. A brief list of your medical evidence can also help (one page or less is ideal).

🍭 Try 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.

🍭 Try Offering a Draft

Many readers here report that this was the key to getting a great letter. Some doctors ask their patients to prepare a draft of a letter, and some patients offer to do this to their doctor. You can ask your doctor if she would find it helpful to see a draft of a letter. Your doctor may or may not use your draft and she may or may not change your draft. Some doctors will use the basic information from a draft and then add details with their medical opinion. Once again: Sample Doctor Letters for Disability.


Your Dream Letter

A letter from your doc will generally include you diagnosis and symptoms and some information about your medical history. This is fine, but it’s not enough to be a strong letter for Social Security. 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.


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.

5 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?


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