How to Get a Great Letter from Your Doc

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. I know one man who 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. Now he is becoming homeless because he truly is too sick to work. The doctor was wrong.

🍭 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, I would suggest that you do not hand your doc a big pile of papers. In my experience, 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.


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.

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