Many disability applicants are left confused and angry when Social Security denies their disability claim. In many cases, people have been told by their doctors not to work. Some denied applicants even have a disability rating from the VA doctors--maybe even a 100% rating.
Sometimes when a doctor tells a patient not to go back to work it means that the doctor thinks the patient should not go back to her previous job, and doesn't mean that the patient is incapable of doing any work. Even if you can't go back to your old job, Social Security won't grant you benefits if there is any type of less demanding job out there that you can do.
I think this difference comes down to confusion between legal and medical determinations. While it doesn't hurt your case if your doctor says "My patient is totally disabled," it does not help as much as you might think. "Disabled" is a legal determination, saved for Social Security examiners and judges to make, not a medical one.
Also, eligibility for VA disability compensation is much different than for Social Security or SSI benefits. Though Social Security is supposed to give some weight to the fact that the VA has found you disabled, it doesn''t have to give you benefits if you're not disabled according to its rules.
Your doctors' medical determinations, however, are the most important aspect of getting approved for Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Examples of medical determinations read more like "My patient is capable of frequently lifting 10 lbs and occasionally 20 lbs" and "My patient would experience aggravation of her anxiety by working in an environment that requires social interaction."
This is one of the reasons why it is so important to hire an attorney familiar with Social Security guidelines. Your doctors might be trying to help, but in order to succeed, they must be asked the right questions. A disability lawyer can give your doctor a medical assessment form to fill out for your specific medical condition that asks the doctor all the right questions about all the limitations you might have. The more limitations you have, the more likely you are to get approved for disability benefits. And Social Security must give a lot of weight to medical determinations made by your treating doctor.