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A doctor can’t file your Social Security disability application, but your treating physician may be an important part of your Social Security disability case. The doctor you have seen the most over the longest period of time is usually your treating physician and the information from your treating physician can make or break your claim.

How Will the Social Security Administration Determine My Treating Physician?

Many people with disabilities regularly see more than one doctor. In order for a doctor to be established as your treating physician, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must find the following to be true:

  • The physician is an established medical source, or a licensed physician (MD), osteopath (DO), optometrist, podiatrist, or speech pathologist. The SSA is under no obligation to credit statements made by non-established sources, such as chiropractors or naturopaths.
  • You have an established history of medical treatment with the physician. You must have seen the doctor multiple times for the condition for which you are seeking Social Security disability benefits.

A treating physician is NOT:

  • A doctor you saw once or twice
  • A doctor who completed your consultative medical exam at the request of the Social Security disability examiner
  • A doctor who treats you for reasons unrelated to your Social Security disability application. For example, a doctor who is treating your allergies when you are seeking Social Security disability for a cancer diagnosis is not your treating physician
  • A chiropractor, nurse, or physical therapist. While these practitioners may be important to your medical team, they are not considered to be treating physicians by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Ideally, your doctor will have a great deal of experience with your medical condition or conditions, and the Social Security Administration will depend on your treating physician to offer an informed opinion on your impairments and capacity for work.

What Can My Doctor Do to Help My Claim?

Every aspect of the disability claim process will involve working with your doctor in some way. Chances are, you’ll need your doctor to:

  • Diagnose and treat your impairment(s)
  • Perform medical tests needed to demonstrate the severity of your medical condition
  • Fill out a Residual Functional Capacity form for your initial application
  • Complete any other medical source statements necessary for your case

It’s important to talk to your doctor about your intention to apply for disability benefits before you do so, just to make sure that he or she is willing and able to complete these tasks.

The law requires that the decision-makers involved in your case give substantial weight to the opinions of your treating physician. If you are able to demonstrate that a disability examiner or administrative law judge disregarded the opinion of your doctor in denying your claim, you may be able to overturn the decision on appeal.

While a doctor is important to your claim, you may need additional help with the legal process of applying for Social Security disability. For more information about that, please start a live chat with us now.

Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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