SSR Rulings on Doctor’s Opinions:
The Social Security Administration periodically issues “Social Security Rulings.” A Social Security Ruling (“SSR”) is essentially a modification of the Social Security Administration’s policies and procedures, and although an SSR does not have the same effect as a law, all parts of the Social Security Administration must comply with its terms.
For instance, on August 9, 2006, the Social Security Administration issued SSR 06-03p, the stated purpose of which was “[t]o clarify how [the Social Security Administration] consider[s] opinions from sources who are not ‘acceptable medical sources’ and how [the Social Security Administration] consider[s] decisions by other governmental and nongovernmental agencies on the issue of disability or blindness.”SSR 06-03p discusses the types of evidence that the Social Security Administration evaluates to make a disability determination. This evidence “includes, but is not limited to, objective medical evidence; other evidence from medical sources, including their opinions; statements by [an applicant for disability benefits] and others about the impairment(s) and how it affects the [applicant’s] functioning; information from other ‘non-medical sources’ and decisions by other governmental and nongovernmental agencies about whether an [applicant]is disabled or blind.”
According to the ruling, “acceptable medical sources” include licensed physicians, licensed or certified psychologists, licensed optometrists, licensed podiatrists, and qualified speech-language pathologists. Sources other than “acceptable medical sources” include nurse practitioners, physician assistants,licensed clinical social workers, naturopaths, chiropractors, audiologists, therapists, educational personnel, social welfare agency personnel, and friends, family and associates of an applicant for disability benefits.The significance of the distinction between “acceptable medical sources” and other sources is that the Social Security Administration will consider only evidence providedby an acceptable medical source for purposes of establishing “the existence of a medically determinable impairment.” Among other things, this means that a medical opinion from an acceptable medical source can lead directly to a determination about whether or not an applicant for disability benefits has a qualifying disability.Although opinions from other sources might not have as much influence on an official disability determination, the evidence from other sources can be important. These opinions provide the Social Security Administration with evidence regarding the severity of an applicant’s disability, along with the extent of an applicant’s ability to function despite the disability.
If you believe that you are eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits, or if you have been denied and want to appeal, then any evidence you have from sources other than “acceptable medical sources” can be important. Talk to an attorney who focuses on Social Security disability law if you have questions about establishing your entitlement to disability benefits. Call today 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation.