A patient wearing face mask.

An application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefit requires supporting documentation, including formal medical records. However, a letter of support from the applicant’s physician explaining the medical condition and how it prevents maintaining gainful employment carries more weight than a letter that merely states that the person has a disability.

What Should Be Included in a Doctor’s Letter of Support?

A letter of support needs to provide detailed and specific information about the applicant’s disability. If the letter lacks this information and only states that the individual has a disability and cannot work, it could hinder a determination on the disability claim.

The letter should include such information as:

  • The claimant’s medical condition(s)
  • Medical evidence such as diagnostic test results
  • The doctor’s medical opinion about the claimant’s limitations
  • An explanation of how the medical evidence supports the doctor’s opinion

A doctor may be hesitant about writing a letter to support a disability claim because it is often time-consuming. However, there are forms available to assist with such documents to assess the claimant’s medical condition and residual functional capacity (RFC). The RFC is available for download or printing from the SSA’s website.

A Targeted, Detailed Explanation

A letter of support can help make the application process go more smoothly and reduce the risk of the claim getting denied. It can help summarize the claimant’s supporting medical information into a more easily digestible format. The letter should include information such as the formal diagnosis and the date that the disability began, tests used to diagnose the condition, and treatments performed to help mitigate the condition and allow the claimant to perform substantial gainful activity. The doctor should include what the outlook is for the patient regarding his or her disability, whether it will improve or worsen over time, the symptoms experienced, and how symptoms affect the ability to work.

When describing the medical condition, the doctor should explain how it affects the claimant both physically and mentally. Specific details about limitations should include the ability for movement, amount of weight that can be carried, the ability to do repetitive or routine tasks, and the ability to use arms and hands.

No Limit to the Number of Letters Submitted

An SSD claimant could submit a letter of support from each of his or her treating doctors. It is important that the doctor is familiar with treating the condition and the patient has been seen regularly by the doctor.