You may want to switch doctors if yours won’t help you get approved for disability. Depending on your situation, it may be necessary to find a more cooperative doctor. Before you start shopping for a new doctor, however, you need to understand the risk of switching and how to do it without weakening your disability claim.
Ideally, you should first talk to your current physician and determine the reason why he or she will not help your quest for disability benefits.
Why Your Doctor’s Opinion Matters for Your Social Security Disability Application
Your doctor is not the one who approves or denies your Social Security claim. That job belongs to the disability examiners who work for the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, your doctor’s cooperation can go a long way toward producing the evidence you need for a successful outcome. The disability examiners who review your claim rely heavily on your medical evidence, much of which gets submitted by your treating physician.
If you can get approved for Social Security disability by meeting the criteria of a Blue Book listing, it may not be as imperative to have your doctor’s cooperation—but he or she will still need to submit medical evidence to show you meet the standards.
If you do not meet a Blue Book listing—most applicants do not—then you will need your doctor to help you complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) test. If your doctor will not do this, your path to approval becomes much more difficult.
Why It Is Risky to Switch Doctors While Applying for Social Security Disability
It is risky to switch doctors while applying for Social Security disability because it may appear to the SSA that you are “doctor shopping,” a process in which patients bounce from doctor to doctor trying to find one who will give them exactly what they want, even if it is not in a patient’s best interests.
If the SSA notices you have changed doctors several times leading up to your application date, it is an immediate red flag that you may have been doctor shopping to find a physician willing to support a counterfeit disability claim.
It does not mean you are automatically guilty or the SSA will not approve your claim, but you can count on more scrutiny compared to an applicant who has been with the same doctor for many years before applying.
How to Talk to Your Doctor About Their Concerns
Before you decide to switch doctors, consider talking to yours about why he or she does not support your quest to obtain Social Security disability. It is often for one of three reasons:
They Do Not Believe You Are Disabled
If your doctor refuses to support your claim because he does not believe you are disabled, it may be difficult to convince him. You can try showing statements from your employer or manager detailing the difficulties you face at work. Doing so may give your doctor a new perspective and change his mind. Otherwise, you may be forced to switch physicians.
They Are Worried About Litigation
Many doctors are automatically leery of anything involving the government. If they do not understand how an RFC works, they may be worried about getting hauled in front of a federal judge to testify in a case they would much rather stay far, far away from.
Your doctor is not required to stay involved in the process after she helps you complete the RFC. Explaining this and showing your doctor the language on the SSA’s website to confirm what you are saying may ease her mind.
They Are Philosophically Opposed
It is possible your doctor is opposed to helping you because he has a philosophical opposition to Social Security disability. Perhaps she believes it is a government handout given to people she thinks should be working instead.
Most people with firmly entrenched political beliefs like this are not easily swayed. You may be able to reason with your doctor by explaining that Social Security disability is more like an insurance program than a welfare program. You have paid for your own benefits via your payroll tax contributions.
What to Do if You Have to Switch Doctors
If you decide it is necessary to switch doctors to find one who will cooperate with your mission to receive Social Security disability, it is essential to do your research and choose a new doctor with confidence. The worst-case scenario would be to go through several doctors before finding one who is agreeable. A disability lawyer can help you with this process.