How to Deal with a Doctor Who Does Not Like Disability Forms

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Art: Robin Mead

ONE: TRY ASKING FACE-TO-FACE

It is best to ask your doctor directly in person. If your doctor just receives a form in the mail, the chances of getting a good, accurate response may be much lower. Our readers report that they either got back forms that were missing important information or (more likely) they got no response at all. Violet did a super job with this: How Violet Got More Function Forms than Anybody Ever

Cautionary tale: Allysum was applying for disability for an auto-immune condition. Allysum’s lawyer sent function forms to all her doctors. Some did not respond. One who did respond was a doctor she had seen a few times for headaches. The headache doctor wrote that Allysum was not disabled and had no limitations with sitting, standing, walking, or working. Allysum had no idea any of this was happening until after her hearing was over and she read the judge’s denial letter.

TWO: TRY MAKING A SPECIAL APPOINTMENT

If you mail or send your doctor a form (or your lawyer does this), you are giving your doctor homework! Unpaid homework! Sit with your doctor while the form is being filled out. They will be paid for their time, and they won’t have to put anything else in their “to do” bin.

Tip: Some of our readers reported that when they try to set up an appointment to fill out paperwork, the person at the front desk did not want to give them an appointment! They found they had more success scheduling a regular visit, and then talking directly with the doctor.

THREE: TRY REQUESTING A FORM

Some doctors prefer to do a form instead of a letter. A form can be more easily completed during a visit. RFC function forms.

FOUR: TRY ASKING FOR ONE THING ONE TIME

If your doctor believes you are disabled but will not fill out forms, try asking/begging for just this one form just this one time. One RFC form can make a huge difference.

Warning: This may work well for Social Security, but if you are applying for private disability insurance through your employer, the insurance company will almost certainly require more forms.

FIVE: TRY ASKING EARLY

If you are seeing your doctor for fifteen minutes, you do not want to hand her a form at minute twelve. Bring it up at minute one.

Try to ask your doctor right at the beginning of the appointment and let them know this is the only reason you are there that day. Or ask if it would be OK to schedule another appointment to look over a form with you.

SIX: TRY BRINGING A FRIEND

If you feel shy or nervous asking your doctor, bring a friend or family member who can ask for you. That’s what Jamesia did. It worked! Jamesia’s Guide to How to Help a Friend Get Approved

SEVEN: TRY GETTING A SOCIAL WORKER

A Caseworker or Social Worker may be able to assist you with preparing your application. Unfortunately, most our readers report that their Case Workers were not trained in techniques to improve disability applications. They simply filled out the basic information and then were disappointed to find most clients got denied.

You can help change this by bringing your case worker special forms and reports, which can also be co-signed by a doctor. Learn more about Social Worker Disability Assessment Forms and How to Get a Social Worker or Caseworker.

EIGHT: TRY SWITCHING DOCTOR

Some doctors simply won’t do paperwork under any circumstances. If you try everything on this page, and your doctor still won’t cooperate, sometimes a new doctor is the best solution. Here’s a great story that may inspire you: Dandelion Switches Doctors

NINE: TRY BEING SURPRISED

When you start asking for disability forms, you may be surprised who turns out to be helpful! And who doesn’t! Make sure to talk to all doctors you have seen, even ones you did not think were helpful for diagnosis or treatment. Some doctors are good at treatment. Some doctors are good at paperwork. These two things have nothing to do with each other. How to Find a Doctor to Help With Disability Documentation

TEN: TRY BEING NICE

Some people get really upset when they don’t get the support they were hoping for. Totally understandable. But it’s important to keep in mind that it is not your doctor’s job to fill out your disability paperwork. She does not have to do this. You are asking a favor.

ELEVEN: TRY ASKING THE RIGHT PERSON

When you apply for disability, there are two things it will help you a LOT to get. You want to ask the right person so you can get what you need.

  • Medical records –  Ask front desk or the records department. Do not ask your doctor. Also: Do not look online, those are not your full records.
  • Forms or letters – Ask your doctor directly. Other people in the office may automatically say, “we don’t do disability paperwork.”

TWELVE: IF YOUR DOCTOR IS TRULY NOT ALLOWED

When doctor’s have an “office policy” or “no disability paperwork,” this usually means the doctor doesn’t want to deal with paperwork and made a policy. They can change their mind.

However, from time to time, we hear from readers where the policy is set by some kind of evil bureaucrats in their healthcare system, and the doctor is literally not allowed even if they want to!

If your doctor wants to fill out the paperwork and truly cannot, you can try bringing in the form, and going through each question while your doctor types into their office visit notes. Doctor’s still get to write what they want in their office visit notes!

As long as the information appears in your medical records, it really doesn’t matter if it appears on a form or not.

THIRTEEN: TRY CHECKING YOUR RECORDS

If your doctor is supportive but unwilling to fill out any additional paperwork with you, then you can get copies of your medical records and see how strong they are. If your records are already very strong and include clear information about your ability to function, you may be able to get approved without needing any additional paperwork.

Make sure you get also get all the secret doctor notes. If you discover any problems in your records, here’s How To Fix Problems in Your Medical Records

FOURTEEN: TRY MAKING A MEDICAL OUTLINE

An outline is a great way to give your doctor and Social Security an overview of your medical history. To increase the chances your doctor will actually read your outline, try to keep it to a bulleted list of 1-2 pages. How To Make a Medical History Outline

FIFTEEN: TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT YOUR DOCTOR THINKS

If your doctor does not believe you are disabled, or thinks you should return to work, but you feel you are too sick to work, you have a different set of problems. Check out: How to Deal with a Doctor Who Does Not Believe You Are Disabled.

SIXTEEN: TRY A NURSE PRACTITIONER

Some of our readers report that Nurse Practitioners can be more willing to help with paperwork then MDs. You can also look for a Physicians Assistant.

A few important things you need to know: If you first applied before March 2017, you should get your medical records and documents co-signed by an MD. If you first applied after March 2017, you do not need to worry about co-signs. This is because the acceptable medical source rules changed in March 2017.

SEVENTEEN: TRY BRINGING A SAMPLE FORM

Many of our readers report that their doctors were very appreciative of having a sample form. Some readers said their doctor found it helpful when they brought two forms: one filled by patient with patient’s own opinion of their limitations, and then a second blank form for the doctor to complete.

Here’s the instructions Lilac’s lawyer gave her:

Dear Lilac Flowers,

Enclosed find four Physician Statements. Please fill out two yourself and then take them to your specialist and your primary doctor.

Inform your doctor that you filled out these forms stating what you can do and ask them to fill out the forms based on their medical opinion as to what you can do.

State that Social Security wants treating physician’s opinions based on their findings and backed by exam procedures and diagnostic tests. This is their medical opinion and not a functional capacity exam.

Sincerely,

Lilac’s Lawyer

EIGHTEEN: TRY BRINGING BACKGROUND MATERIAL FOR A LETTER

If your doctor is writing a letter, it may be helpful to give them a written synopsis of your medical history. Many doctor’s are not aware of the type of information that is supposed to go into a disability letter. Here’s a bunch of letters that include the type of information Social Security looks for: Disability Letters from Doctors

Ruby’s Story:

“Before my doctor completed a letter for me, I wrote down my medical background to give to him. It took me more than two months to write, because I have so much complexity in my medical history, and I was so sick then. My doctor said that he would not have had time and would not have written a letter for me if I had not done this first.”

Read The Dazzling Disability Doctor Letter of Miss Ruby Fierce

Stories from other readers: Dafodil Gets a Letter,  Daisy Gets a Letter, Zinnia Gets a LetterLaurel Gets Two Great Letters and Two Great Forms.

NINETEEN: LET THEM KNOW YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES

Let your doctor know if you have dire need. Let your doctor know if you or your family are at risk for homelessness, eviction, foreclosure, running out of food, losing medical care, or other dire circumstances.

Let them know if you feel this one form has the ability to change your life and turn things around for you. If you are appealing: Let them know if you a lawyer or a disability advocate has told you that you can’t or won’t be able to get approved without a form from your treating doctor, or that it will take three years without this form.

TWENTY: TRY ASKING IN WRITING

If you feel too shy to ask in person, you can send a letter first. It is usually better not send something long, this may overwhelm your doctor and make them less likely to help.

A simple letter that is half a page, explains your circumstances and asks for their help with just one form.  Then you can set up an appointment so you can sit with your doctor while it is filled out. (Tip: If you tell the front desk that the appointment is for disability paperwork, they might not let you schedule!)

Update: Some readers are reporting that their doctor is not actually getting letters mailed to them. It is filtered out by office staff and winds up in some mysterious box doctor rarely or never sees. You could try calling office staff to ask how to get a letter through.

Update: We’ve also heard reports from readers that communications in the online patient portals sometimes get included in their medical records. When emailing your doctor, it may be helpful to be aware that everything you both write may become part of your permanent medical records.

TWENTY ONE: TRY REASSURING YOUR DOCTOR

Some doctors think that supporting your application means they will have to go to court! Not true. Make sure they understand that you are not asking for a big time commitment and that you do not want to take up a lot of their time. Try asking if your doctor would be willing to have just one or two appointments with you to go over some questions about your condition and your application. 

Some doctors have experiences with Long Term Disability (employer disability). These policies sometimes require a LOT of paperwork. If you are applying for Social Security disability, you don’t need this much paperwork! Reassure your doctor that you are only asking for one form or letter.

TWENTY TWO: TRY ASKING SEVERAL DOCTORS

Sometimes having more than one doctor or specialist can be really helpful. Some doctors are really great at filling out forms or letters and some or not. If you ask enough of them, you will find one that is good!

If you are able to get forms or letters from more than one doctor, Social Security really love seeing this. Here’s How Jasmine Got Approved By Requesting Multiple Letters

TWENTY THREE: TRY OLD DOCTORS

Just because a doctor wasn’t good at treatment, doesn’t mean they won’t be good at paperwork. You can contact any doctors you’ve seen in the past few years. You never know who will be willing to be helpful.

TWENTY FOUR: ASK IF ANYONE ELSE CAN DO IT

You can ask your doctor if there is anyone else at their office who you can set up an appointment with to go over the form. For example, is there a nurse or physician’s assistant who can help you fill out a form? Then your doctor can review and co-sign it.

TWENTY FIVE: FOR MENTAL HEALTH

Try getting a medical summary report. This can be created by a social worker, case worker, therapist or counselor. You can then bring it to your doctor to review and consider co-signing. Or ask your counselor if they have a supervising psychiatrist or psychologist who can review and consider co-signing reports. Medical Summary Reports

TWENTY SIX: TRY GETTING A CO-SIGN

Sometimes doctors are not willing to take the time to write a letter or complete a form themselves, but they are more than happy to review and consider co-signing a report or letter. Co-signing reports is a technique used by the SOAR program, a federal government program with a very high success rate at assisting with disability applications. If you have a Case Workers, Social Worker, Therapist, Physical Therapist, or other practitioner willing to help you with paperwork, learn more about: How to Get a Co-Sign.

TWENTY SEVEN: IF YOUR DOC SAYS YOU NEED A FUNCTIONAL EXAM

Some doctors insist they cannot fill out forms, and instead refer you to a Functional Capacity Exam with a Physical Therapists. These exams are often not covered by insurance, and can cost $500-$1,000.

If you can afford it, it can be great to get an exam like this, but you still want your doctor to fill out the RFC form if at all possible. Social Security wants to see your doctor’s medical opinion.

Lilac’s letter above does a great job of explaining how to tell your doctor that you are not looking for a function exam. Social Security needs the treating physicians medical opinion.


ASK FOR WHAT’S REASONABLE

Doctors are not required to fill out disability paperwork for you. Some doctors will charge for this service, and some will do it for free, and some won’t do it all. If you are asking for help with disability paperwork, it may be helpful to keep your expectations reasonable. It is a good idea not to expect your doctor to:

  • Read a long personal letter from you about your life and problems

  • Read or fill out your disability application with you

  • Collect and read all your medical files from all your other doctors

  • Do “homework” – anything that cannot be completed during the office visit

  • Respond to forms you fax/mail to them

  • Respond to forms your lawyer faxes/mails to them

If you follow some of the tips above on this page you may find that even a doctor who hates paperwork, may be able to help you get the documentation you need.

Updated January 2020. Please comment below with your questions, stories, input and ideas. Also: kindly let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you liked this page, please share with others by pressing one of these magic buttons: 

4 thoughts on “How to Deal with a Doctor Who Does Not Like Disability Forms”

  1. In the midst of the disability approval process. I am a 60 yr old AA female with Diabetic Neuropathy and Severe Anxiety. Initial application denied. Now I am at step two t -lawyer assisted this time. I have found this site to be a wonderful resource for those struggling through the SSDI determination process… The tips for getting docs to fill forms are great. Tips # 1,2,5,10,1n3 18 worked liked magic. Got my forms from my specialist and primary doc completed and submitted for reconsideration in my file within 30 days!
    Gaga

    Like

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