How do administrative law judges decide whether a claimant is disabled? In short, they look at the claimant’s medical evidence. Specifically, they look at the notes that the medical professionals record in a claimant’s file.
For example, if your orthopedic surgeon notes that you were “doing very well” three months post-surgery, and could return to full weight-bearing activities, a judge will likely conclude that at that point, you did not have any limitations related to your back and could probably work. If you had an MRI a few months later, however, which showed that there were still severe findings, the judge may be persuaded that you were unable to work all along.
The longer you have a treating relationship with a medical professional, the more weight the judge will likely give that physician’s medical opinions regarding your limitations. Because the physician will have treated you over a long period of time, she will have a more detailed and big-picture understanding of your impairments. It is often very helpful to have such a physician write a letter of support for your case.
Judges get to make the final determination as to whether a claimant is disabled. Therefore, it’s best if medical providers stick to factual assessments describing functional limitations. If a physician notes “my patient is disabled,” or “he simply cannot work” it is more harmful then helpful.
Your disability lawyer will be able to provide guidance regarding collecting these types of statements.