Which medical treatment sources will Social Security accept for evidence?

In a recent post, I mentioned that chiropractors records are not considered medical evidence. In the eyes of the SSA, not every medical treatment source is acceptable. Licensed physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists are acceptable sources, and their medical records can be used to help prove a claim for disability. Chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, etc., are not acceptable medical sources, and opinions from these individuals will not carry any weight with the examiner.

Social Security prefers that disability claims be supported by medical records from the applicant's treating physician.

Medical records from hospitals, clinics, etc., are also valid forms of documentation, provided that the individual signing off on any reports from these treatment sources is considered to be acceptable. Social Security recognizes the medical opinions of licensed MDs, DOs (osteopaths), psychologists and optometrists. It does not give any weight to the opinions of chiropractors, although a disability examiner may review any x-rays or other medical tests ordered by chiropractors before making a decision.

If you are considering filing a claim for disability, your best course of action is to document your symptoms and diagnosis by seeing a licensed physician (or mental health professional, if the basis of your claim is a mental disorder). Try to see a doctor who is a specialist in the field for your particular type of disorder.

For instance, an orthopedic doctor for back or neck pain, or a doctor who specializes in pain management, and a psychiatrist for treatment of severe depression, bipolar, etc. While records from your family doctor will prove useful, they may not be as helpful to your case as an opinion from a medical specialist.

I should also mention another type of treatment professional whose records are not accepted or at least accepted at full face value: Physician assistants a.k.a. nurse practitioners.

A physician assistant works under the supervision of an MD and can prescribe medicine, which a nurse cannot do. And, sometimes, a physician's assistant will work in a remote field office of a medical practice, functioning, practically, as a doctor. Personally, I think I would rather have a modern PA versus an MD from 50 years ago.

Are physician assistant records acceptable? Yes, but only if an MD signs off on them.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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