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My Doctor Wrote A Letter Supporting My Disability, Why Was I Denied Disability Benefits?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

I received the following question today: "My doctor wrote a letter supporting my disability, why was I denied disability benefits?"

This is actually a very common question and happens quite often. At the beginning levels of the Social Security disability benefits process, Disability Determinations Services (DDS) is charged with developing a claim. A trained medical examiner will at some point review a file and determine whether in his or her expert opinion the claimant should be entitled to disability benefits. While DDS should give the most weight to the treating physician's opinion, too often the determination favors the opinion of their doctor. Your case could have been denied because their doctor had a very different opinion than your treating physician.

Sometimes a letter from your doctor attesting to permanent disability can actually harm your case. A few years ago, a 27 year old potential client came into my office with a doctor letter stating, "Due to my patient's severe medical conditions and the side effects from the medications he is permanently restricted from any light work and is disabled." While the potential client thought that meant he should be guaranteed disability benefits, I read the letter as stating that he could not perform jobs where he had to stand for most of the day and lift up to 20 pounds...but that the doctor seemed to think he could perform any sit-down job. This could lead Social Security to believe that the claimant is not disabled.

Doctor letters also contain the phrase "My patient is permanently disabled." While suggestive of a serious debilitating condition, ultimately, the finding of disability is left to the Commissioner of Social Security. In other words, a letter with a similar permanent disability statement is not really all that helpful.

Another possible reason for denying disability benefits despite a doctor letter attesting to disability could be that Social Security never actually received the letter or took the time to read it in the first place. Letters and evidence are sent to the Administration every day and many of those documents are improperly processed. It could be that the adjudicator never actually got to the letter itself.

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