Will Social Security consider my doctor's note that I am disabled in order to prove Social Security Disability?

A simple note from your doctor that you are disabled is not enough to prove Social Security Disability.  This has a lot to do with how the statute is written.

Social Security applies a five-step process to determine whether somebody meets the definition of a "disability." I put the term "disability" in quotes for a reason. It is a statutory definition, and only the Social Security Administration can decide whether somebody is "disabled" under the statute.

When a doctor writes a short note in their chart or on a prescription pad that the patient is disabled from work, Social Security will reject that note, explaining that whether someone is disabled is for Social Security to decide, not the doctor.  However, your physician can be helpful in a lot of other ways.

In most cases, the key issue in determining whether you are disabled is determining your "residual functional capacity." This term simply refers to what you can still do in a work setting, day in and day out, despite your physical or mental limitations. Some people have serious medical problems that limit them from many kinds of work, but not all work.

For example, if you were working as a logger, fishermen, or construction worker, and you suffered a serious knee injury that disabled you from this kind of work, you may still have the physical ability to do other kinds of work. Depending upon your age and your work experience, you would probably not be found disabled. For younger workers, it doesn't matter whether the other work you can perform only pays a fraction of your prior earnings. The real question is whether or not you retain some physical and/or mental ability to perform work activity.

This is where your treating physician can be helpful. Your treating physician can provide an estimate on your ability to do work activities like sitting, standing, and walking. If somebody suffers from a mental impairment, your mental health provider can provide estimates on your ability to concentrate, follow instructions, and get to work on time.  Social Security will generally defer to your treating physician's opinion because your physician knows more about your condition than Social Security doctors who never see you, but only review medical records.

If you are in the middle of a Social Security disability claim, and wonder what medical opinions may help your case, call us at 503-325-8600. We work with physicians every day to help our clients establish their claim.


Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Top-rated Personal Injury Lawyer Helping Oregon and Washington Families