How Medical Equipment Can (and can’t) Help Your Disability Application

Robin Mead

Documenting medical equipment can be a big help for your disability application. If you are already on disability, it can also be helpful for your reviews.

Sunflower was kind enough to share her story to help show how medical equipment can make a difference.

Sunflower Documents Medical Equipment

This week I went to my disability hearing and was approved! My diagnoses are: Relapsing Remitting MS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression, Lyme Disease,  Seizure disorder, and Fibromyalgia.

SUPER IMPORTANT: The judge decided that I became disabled on the date when my neurologist wrote me a prescription for a wheelchair and cane. This date was five months after I actually became disabled.

For those five months, I was mostly bedridden and used a wheelchair and cane, but I didn’t know I needed a prescription for proof. When I read I needed a prescription, I got one from my neurologist, and that was the date the judge focused on.

I lost five months of benefits, but I am not going to appeal, I am just so grateful to get approved. Thank you to everyone on this site who gave advice and shared your stories. I was able to get some great tips that came in handy!

Types of Medical Equipment

💖 Examples of medical equipment often used by people with illnesses that cause debilitating fatigue and weakness: Shower chairs, manual wheelchairs, electric wheel chairs, walkers, canes, mobility scooters, hospital beds, toilet rails, bath tub safety frames, bath tub lifts, bed pans, commode chairs.

💖 For other conditions: crutches, braces, and a wide variety of other items.

How Equipment Can (and can’t) Help Your Disability Application

💖 Not Helpful: You go out and buy medical equipment without talking to your doctor.

💖 Not Helpful: You write on your disability application that you use medical equipment, but your doctor never writes this in your medical records.

💖 Really Not Helpful: You show up at your disability hearing with medical equipment, even though this is never mentioned in your medical records. Many disability lawyers will advise you not to do this.

💖 Somewhat Helpful: Your doctor writes down a simple prescription or note in your records about your equipment.

💖 Super Helpful: Your doctor writes a prescription, plus performs an assessment and/or writes detailed notes in your records about your limitations and how these create a need for equipment.

💖 Also Super Helpful: You get an assessment for medical equipment through a rehabilitation center or rehabilitation doctor. Or you get an assessment from physical or occupational therapist who specializes in assessments for medical equipment.

💖 Helpful Ongoingly: Your doctor continues to note in your records that you use medical equipment during your regular office visits.

Getting an Assessment

💖  Assessments are common for mobility equipment, electric wheelchairs, and mobility scooters. Rehabilitation programs may do assessments for specialized computer equipment, adaptive equipment or assistive technology. Sometimes smaller items are simply prescribed without a full assessment.

💖 Assessments for medical equipment can be very helpful, as they often include specific details about your limitations and need for equipment.

💖 This can be helpful for a few reasons: It can help your disability application. It can help make sure you are getting the right kind and right size of equipment. It is also often needed if you are trying to get your equipment paid through insurance.

💖 Some doctors may automatically know how to write these type of notes for you.

💖 Some doctors won’t know how to do this, but if you have insurance, you can research the policies and bring your doctor a copy of the regulations (see links at bottom of page)

💖 Some doctors will refer you to someone who specializes in assessments for equipment.

💖 Or you can research specialists in your area and request for a referral. Look for rehabilitation programs, and rehabilitative medicine doctors.

💖 If you can’t find a rehabilitation program, most physical therapists and occupational therapists can do a basic assessment. However, someone who specializes will be better at getting you equipment that really suits your needs, is the right size and type, and qualifies for insurance.

💖 If you are ever hospitalized, you can ask to meet with the hospital Social Worker and see if it is possible to get the assessment done while still in the hospital.

Paying for Equipment

💖 If your insurance won’t pay for the item, that does not matter. Social Security does not care what your insurance says, they care what your doctor writes.

💖 If you don’t have insurance, this also doesn’t matter.  You can still get an assessment for medical equipment.

💖 After you get a prescription from your doctor, you can pay for the item yourself, if you can afford to.

💖 If you can’t afford the item yet, you can still get the prescription and assessment. You may be able to afford it or get better insurance after your disability is approved.

💖 There are also many programs that provide free medical equipment. See links at the bottom of this page for information on how to pay for or get free equipment.

Documents You Can Collect

Documenting medical equipment is great, but if Social Security never sees the documents, it won’t help you. Small pieces of equipment may not have very much documentation, but larger equipment (like a hospital bed, electric wheelchair, or mobility scooter) will usually require more documentation.

If you can get your hands on any of the following and then get that into the hands of the person making the decision at Social Security, that can be a great help.

💖 Doctor’s prescription

💖 Medical records (including full chart notes, not what appears online)

💖 Doctor’s letter to insurance company detailing need for equipment (if any)

💖 Report from physical or occupational therapist or rehabilitation specialist (if any)

💖 Forms filled out by your doctor for the medical supply company. (if any)

💖 Report from assessment in hospital or rehab center (if any)

💖 Some nonprofits or disability groups give out free medical equipment. If you get your equipment this way, please keep any documentation they give you so you can submit this to Social Security. Or ask if they might be able to provide you with a letter stating what medical equipment you were given and why they felt you needed it.

💖 If an agency installs home modifications for you (such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars, widening doorways, etc) you can try requesting a letter stating the changes that were made and the reason the changes were needed. Or you can ask the agency if they have can give you a copy of your file, if they have one.

💖 When they deliver the equipment to you, they may also give you forms stating that you were eligible for the equipment and the reasons you were found eligible.


💖 Once you’ve got your documentation, don’t forget to submit it! You can give it to your lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, you can submit it yourself. Submitting things the right way may make your life easier in the long run: How to Submit.  

💖 Even if you are working with a lawyer, it’s always a good idea to double check. Lost or missing documentation is very common at Social Security. How to Tell What is (and isn’t) in Your Social Security File

Learn More

How to Get Medical Equipment

How to Get an Electric Wheelchair or Scooter Through Insurance

How to Get Other Medical Equipment Through Insurance

How to Pay for Medical Equipment Without Insurance

How to Get Home Modifications

What Do You Think? 

Updated July 2018. 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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