If your plan is to file for disability benefits through your employer, there are a number of steps you must take to make sure that you provide your disability insurer with proof sufficient to demonstrate your inability to work. One of those steps is to obtain certain information from your treating doctor, including a letter of support and your treatment records.
Get a Letter of Support From Your Doctor to File for disability benefits
Generally speaking, you must prove to your insurer’s satisfaction that you are unable to perform the duties of your occupation in order to receive and file for disability benefits. The insurer evaluates your entitlement to benefits by reviewing your medical records and other medical evidence that you submit with your claim. One of the most vital pieces of information you can submit to support the conclusion that you are unable to work is a letter of support from your treating doctor. Often, your disability insurer will have a specific disability form for your doctor to complete. However, it is beneficial to submit a letter of support in addition to or in lieu of that form.
You should seek a letter from the doctor you see the most for your disabling condition, be that a primary care provider or a specialist. Most patients have more than one doctor; and ideally, all of your doctors will support your disability insurance claim. However, not all doctors are comfortable rendering disability opinions. Therefore, it is important to speak with your doctor(s) before submitting a disability claim to be sure that they endorse your inability to work.
What Should My Doctor Put in the Letter?
A generic statement that you “cannot work” will not convince your insurer that you are eligible to file for disability benefits. Instead, your doctor should be as detailed as possible in the letter of support. Your doctor should explain your formal diagnosis, its onset date, and the specific symptoms you experience as a result of that diagnosis. Any objective verification or proof of your diagnosis and symptoms is also a plus.
Next, your doctor should outline what specific work-related tasks you are unable to perform and why you cannot perform them. In other words, your doctor should document what aspects or symptoms of your condition prevent you from performing your occupational duties. It is also helpful to include how your symptoms impact your day-to-day life.
The letter of support should also include your treatment to-date and whether it has been effective in reducing or eliminating your symptoms. Relatedly, your doctor should document your prognosis and the length of time for which your work-related restrictions apply.
Your disability insurer will likely request updated statements from your doctor after some time has passed following the initial letter of support. Indeed, ongoing support from your doctor is key to your disability claim; and your insurer may terminate your claim if your doctor does not provide it with updated statements confirming the ongoing nature of your disability. Therefore, it is important to regularly treat with your doctor and update them regarding your condition.
What Should My Doctor NOT Put in The Letter?
There are also a number of things that should be left out of the letter of support.
- First, you should avoid “ghost writing” the letter as your doctor – let your doctor explain in their own words how and why you are unable to work considering your condition.
- Second, be mindful of the communication you have with your doctor via your patient portal or email. Your doctor likely keeps record of that communication and thus will be included in any records your doctor submits to your disability insurer. Your statements could be misinterpreted or taken out of context by the insurer and potentially damage your disability claim.
- Third, and perhaps most obviously, your doctor should not include a statement that you are able to work. Do not ask your doctor to complete a letter if the doctor does not support your disability.
Which Doctor’s Records Do I Need to File for disability benefits?
You will need more than your doctor’s opinion to establish your eligibility and file for disability benefits.. The doctor’s opinion must be corroborated by your treatment records. While many disability insurers will request your medical records, it is ultimately your responsibility to provide those documents to the insurer.
You should submit any and all treatment records that accurately and completely depict your disabling condition. There is no need to provide irrelevant records, such as treatment you received for other conditions that are not related to your disability.
>> Related Topic: Why Do Disability Claims Get Denied?
In addition to your doctor’s treatment records, you should also submit the results of any relevant testing, including CT scans, MRIs, and x-rays, as well as the reports of any procedures you have undergone. A list of your current medications and side effects, if any, is also helpful. If your disability is physical, you should provide physical therapy and/or occupational therapy records. If your condition is psychiatric, it is beneficial to submit your therapist’s treatment notes and mental status evaluations.
If you are unable or unsure how to file for disability benefits with your treating doctors, you should reach out to an experienced disability insurance benefits attorney who can help you obtain sufficient proof to support your claim.