How Can Medical Evidence Help or Hurt My Social Security Disability Claim?

Filing for Social Security Disability benefits can be complex and often overwhelming. One of the crucial elements that significantly impacts the outcome of your claim is the strength of your medical evidence. This evidence serves as the foundation for proving the severity of your condition and its impact on your ability to work. In this blog post, we will explore how medical evidence can bolster or hinder your Social Security Disability claim.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Importance of Medical Evidence

Medical evidence plays a pivotal role in establishing the existence and severity of your disability. It provides the necessary documentation to demonstrate to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you meet the eligibility criteria for SSDI benefits. Here’s how medical evidence can either bolster or hinder your claim:

A photo of a two handing holding a pile of papers in a box and a written text of "the importance of medical evidence".

Strengthening Your Claim

  • Medical Records: The most critical form of medical evidence is your medical records. These records contain vital information about your condition, including diagnosis, treatment history, and prognosis. The more comprehensive and detailed your medical records, the stronger your claim.


  • Doctor’s Opinions: Statements from your treating physicians can carry significant weight. If your doctors are willing to provide detailed opinions about your disability and how it affects your ability to work, it can greatly enhance your claim’s credibility.


  • Objective Testing: Objective medical tests, such as MRIs, X-rays, and blood work, can provide concrete evidence of your condition. These tests can help substantiate your disability claims and make them more convincing.


  • Consistency: Consistency in your medical records is crucial. Discrepancies or gaps in your medical history can raise doubts about the legitimacy of your disability claim. Ensure that your medical records reflect a consistent narrative of your condition.

Potential Pitfalls

  • Lack of Evidence: One of the most common reasons disability claims are denied is insufficient medical evidence. The SSA may reject your claim if you fail to provide adequate documentation of your condition.


  • Inconsistent Medical Opinions: If different medical professionals provide conflicting opinions about your disability, it can weaken your claim. It’s essential to have a consistent medical narrative.


  • Non-Compliance with Treatment: Failing to follow prescribed treatments or therapies can be detrimental to your claim. The SSA may question your commitment to improving your condition if you don’t comply with medical recommendations.


  • Mental Health Conditions: Mental health disabilities can be challenging to prove, as they often lack the objective test results that physical conditions have. Comprehensive psychiatric evaluations and treatment records are crucial to supporting your claim for mental health-related disabilities.


  • Other damaging information: A disability claim with Social Security could be rejected due to seemingly unrelated information found in the medical record. For instance, if you casually mention a recent family vacation during a conversation with your doctor, this detail might be recorded. Although being disabled doesn’t imply you can never take a vacation again, an adjudicator might interpret it as an indication that your condition is better than it actually is. The same consideration applies to everyday activities like childcare, hobbies, and meal preparation.

How Does The Social Security Administration Use Medical Evidence?

Social Security employs a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine disability. Medical evidence becomes pertinent at Steps 2 and 3.

Step 1

You must demonstrate that you are not engaged in substantial gainful activity, meaning your earnings from work do not exceed the SSA’s designated limit.


Step 2

A claims examiner evaluates whether a medically verifiable impairment or a combination of impairments, is severe enough to impede work-related activities and persist for at least 12 months or lead to your passing. Both physical and mental impairments are taken into account.


Step 3

This involves a more detailed assessment of the gravity of your condition. An adjudicator examines whether your medically determinable impairment meets or surpasses a listing in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, commonly known as the “Blue Book.” The SSA maintains this resource and outlines medical criteria so severe that an individual with a condition meeting or exceeding these criteria is deemed disabled.


It’s crucial to realize that being listed in the Impairments Listing doesn’t guarantee approval of your claim. These listings are exceptionally stringent, and most claims are approved in Steps 4 or 5.


If Step 3 doesn’t establish your disability due to your condition falling short of meeting or exceeding a listing, the medical evidence will be utilized to evaluate your residual functional capacity—essentially, your ability to participate in substantial gainful activity.

Types of Medical Evidence

These are some of the medical records that are acceptable to the SSA.

  • Treating Physician Records

    Reports and records from your treating physicians are crucial in substantiating your disability claim. These documents often include diagnoses, treatment plans, progress notes, and observations regarding your ability to function.


  • Diagnostic Test Results

    Objective tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, blood work, and psychological assessments, can provide irrefutable evidence of the severity and extent of your medical condition.


  • Medical Specialist Opinions

    Opinions and assessments from specialists who have expertise in your specific condition can carry significant weight. Their professional input can help establish the gravity of your ailment and its implications for your ability to work.


  • Medication and Treatment Records

    Documentation of prescribed medications, therapy sessions, and other treatments can serve as tangible proof of the ongoing efforts to manage your condition.


  • Journals and Logs

    It is advisable to maintain a symptom journal, particularly for symptoms that come and go, such as seizures, muscle spasms, or panic attacks. Record your daily pain levels if you are dealing with chronic pain. For those experiencing mental health symptoms, your journal can be a valuable tool for tracking your moods or any side effects from your medication.

In your journal, you can also keep track of the limitations you encounter in your daily activities. For instance, if you find it difficult to lift your arms for a shower on a given day, make a note of it. Likewise, jot it down if you become breathless, moving from one end of your house to another.

This journal serves several essential purposes. Firstly, it helps in ensuring you remember all the pertinent information to report to your doctor. Additionally, it gives your healthcare provider valuable insights into the frequency, duration, and intensity of your symptoms, which can greatly inform your treatment.

Furthermore, your doctor can incorporate your journal entries into your medical records, ensuring they are readily available when requested by the SSA. Occasionally, we even submit the journal in its entirety as a component of your case.

How Can Burnett Law SSA Disability Attorneys Help You?

When faced with the complexities of filing for disability benefits, seeking the guidance of experienced professionals can significantly improve your chances of a successful claim. This is where the expertise of Burnett Law SSA Disability Attorneys comes into play.

Here is how Burnett Law can help you.

  • Expertise in SSDI Regulations and Procedures

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) has complex rules and regulations governing the SSDI application process. Burnett Law SSA Disability Attorneys are well-versed in these intricate details. They stay updated on the latest changes and can help guide you through the entire application process, ensuring that every step is taken with precision and in compliance with SSA guidelines.


  • Assessment of Eligibility

    Determining whether you meet the eligibility criteria for SSDI benefits is a critical step. Burnett Law attorneys can assess your situation, considering your medical condition, work history, and financial situation. This thorough evaluation ensures that you clearly understand your eligibility and the likelihood of a successful application.


  • Preparation and Gathering of Necessary Documentation

    One of the key elements in a successful SSDI application is the strength of your medical evidence. Burnett Law attorneys understand the importance of comprehensive and detailed medical records. They work closely with you to ensure that all necessary documentation is gathered and organized effectively. This includes medical records, treatment histories, test results, and any other relevant information that can substantiate your disability claim.


  • Expert Handling of Appeals

    In cases where initial SSDI applications are denied, having experienced attorneys on your side becomes even more crucial. Burnett Law SSA Disability Attorneys are adept at handling appeals. They meticulously review the reasons for denial, identify any gaps in the application, and compile additional evidence to strengthen your case. Their expertise in appeals significantly increases the chances of a successful outcome.


  • Representation at Hearings

    Should your case progress to a disability hearing, having legal representation can make a substantial difference. Burnett Law attorneys are skilled advocates who can present your case effectively before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). They are well-prepared to argue on your behalf, providing compelling arguments backed by solid legal reasoning and persuasive medical evidence.




If you have insufficient medical evidence or have difficulty gathering your medical evidence, contact Burnett Law at (931) 484-7549 for a free consultation.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog or on this website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any specific subject matter. No person should act or refrain from acting due to any content included in the site without seeking legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from an attorney licensed in the person’s state. The Firm expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all the contents of this blog or website.

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