How to Get a Great Disability Letter from Your Doctor

Art: 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:

🍭 Talk to Your Doc First – Before you ask for a letter, it’s a great idea to find out if your doctor supports your disability application. Here’s some ideas for How to Have “The Talk”.

🍭 If Your Doc Doesn’t Like Paperwork – Some doctor’s 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

🍭 Ask 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!) Social Security also really likes it when multiple doctors have a similar view point on your functioning, so if you were able to get letters are forms from multiple doctors that can be a great help. If you are looking for a doctor: How to Find a Doctor to Help With Disability Documentation

🍭 Make Sure You Are Seeing the Right Kind of Doctor – Social Security has specific rules about who should sign letters and forms. If your doctor is not an MD, learn more about the acceptable medical source rules.

🍭 Get an RFC Form – Many people ask for an RFC form instead of a letter. Some people try to get both.

Documents That Can Help Your Doctor

Your doctor 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 doctor to write a letter that leaves really important things out! Some of our readers reported that their doctors were grateful and did a better job when they brought one of these things:

🍭 A Medical Test List – A brief list of any important medical tests that showed abnormal results – dates, locations, and outcomes. If your doctor does not already have copies of the test results, then attach these.

🍭 A Sample – Some readers report that their doctors appreciated having a sample letter as a reference. Here are some examples of letters: 21 Sample Doctor Letters for Disability.

🍭 A Medical Overview – Holly did a great job of creating a synopsis of her medical history. Holly’s Fantastic Medical Synopsis for Disability

To put together a medical overview or list of tests, you may find it helpful to collect all your medical records: How to Collect All Your Medical Records. Hint: 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!). Your ideal letter will also include these things:

🍭 Basic Medical Information – Information on your diagnosis, symptoms, treatment and medical history. Most doctors will include this automatically.

🍭 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. More examples of functioning can be found on RFC forms

🍭 Objective Medical Evidence – Ideally, your letter will reference one or more abnormal results on a lab test, assessment test by a specialist, or a medical sign your doctor finds while examining you. If you have ME, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme, Fibromyalgia, or a related condition take a look here: how to get medical evidence.

🍭 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 getting a co-sign.

🍭 Optional: 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 Social Security Blue Book

Letters You Do Not Want

You do not want a letter from a doctor who does not support your disability application. Please talk to your doctor first. Once again: How to Have “The Talk”.

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.”

🍭 Ruby Gets a Great Letter. “When I gave this to my doctor, he thanked me and acknowledged that he would not have had time and would not have written a letter for me if I had not done this first.”

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

🍭 Zinnia Gets a Great Letter – Zinnia and her mom put together a medical summary which made it quick and easy for their doctor to write a great letter.

🍭 Laurel Gets Two Great Letters and Two Great Forms. Laurel was approved in four months without ever needing to appeal or hire a lawyer.


💮  This page is part of the free online guide: The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability 

💮  Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

💮  Page Updated: 7/1/19

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

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

  1. hello. Thank you for so many helpful information. I have been going on loops on the internet,so confused and overwhelmed. I am applying for my son that has autism, anxiety and ocd. was wondering if anyone here has any more specifics on that particularly disability.


  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.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 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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