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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.








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For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.