You can go to a doctor outside of the country for a disability recommendation; however, you might have to return to the United States if the SSA requires you to undergo a medical exam to determine continuing eligibility. For first-time disability applicants, the SSA’s website features no explicit language prohibiting you from visiting a doctor outside of the United States for a recommendation. But seeing a U.S. doctor is highly recommended to secure benefits.
Your doctor can be an invaluable asset as you apply for Social Security disability. They can provide compelling evidence that you meet the Blue Book criteria for an approved condition, or that you cannot work because of your functional impairment. But a doctor outside the United States is not likely to be familiar with all the intricacies of Social Security and is thus not advisable to use.
Why Do I Need a Doctor Recommendation for Social Security Disability?
There are two ways to get Social Security, and no matter which one you use, your doctor can play a vital role. The first is to prove that you meet the criteria of a Blue Book listing. The Blue Book is a list of the conditions for which the SSA grants benefits. If you meet all the listed criteria for a condition on the list, you can get approved based on this fact alone.
The second method of approval is to complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) test. This method is the one used by most applicants, as meeting a Blue Book listing can be difficult. An RFC test is used to demonstrate that your condition limits your functional capacity the same way a Blue Book condition would. Your functional capacity refers to your ability to work and carry out daily living activities, such as eating, bathing, and transportation.
What Is the Downside of Going to a Doctor Outside the United States for a Disability Recommendation?
As anyone who has applied for Social Security can tell you, the rules and requirements are highly complex, and the SSA is known to be capricious in its decision-making process. The more experience your doctor has with patients seeking disability, and the more they know about what the SSA is looking for when reviewing your application, the stronger that doctor’s recommendation will be.
When you visit a doctor outside the United States, you are rolling the dice on how much—if anything—they know about Social Security disability here. If you submit a doctor recommendation not catered to the criteria that the SSA is looking for, your application is going to be weak and will stand a low chance of approval.
What Are the Rules for Receiving Social Security Disability While Living Outside the United States?
The rules for continuing to collect disability benefits while living abroad vary based on what country you reside in, and whether you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Collecting SSDI While Living Outside the United States
If you are a U.S. citizen living abroad, and you have been approved for SSDI, you can continue to receive your benefits while living abroad, provided you do not reside in a handful of countries to which the United States government does not send money.
These countries are mostly the ones you would expect—North Korea, Cuba, and several of the former Soviet states (although you may receive payment in Russia as well as the Baltic states). The SSA’s website has a full list of the banned countries. If you relocate to one of those places, you will still compile benefits if you remain eligible, but you will not be able to collect them until you leave the restricted country.
Collecting SSI While Living Outside the United States
If you receive SSI, a means-tested disability program for the needy, you will not be able to continue collecting benefits if you move outside the United States. Unlike SSDI, which is a program you have to pay into in order to collect benefits, SSI is a welfare program, and so it does not pay out to those who leave the country. To remain eligible for SSI, you must live in the United States and have a demonstrated financial need.
Call 865-566-0800 Today to Set Up a Free Consultation With a Social Security Disability Lawyer
No matter your situation, the attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group, want to fight for the disability benefits you deserve. Our goal is to get you approved for SSDI or SSI as quickly and efficiently as possible, whether you go to a doctor outside of the country for a disability recommendation or not. To schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our team, call us today at 865-566-0800.