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How the SSA weighs the evidence

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes a variety of medical professionals as acceptable medical sources for the purposes of evaluating the medical evidence in a disability claim. Traditionally, only the following types of medical providers constitute acceptable medical sources-physicians, psychologists, school psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists, and speech-language pathologists. For applications for disability benefits filed on or after March 27, 2017, the SSA has expanded the umbrella of professionals who may be considered acceptable medical sources to include a licensed audiologist (for hearing-related impairments), a licensed advanced practice registered nurse or other licensed advanced practice nurse (for impairments within his or her licensed scope of practice), and a licensed physician assistant (for impairments within his or her licensed scope of practice).

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes a variety of medical professionals as acceptable medical sources for the purposes of evaluating the medical evidence in a disability claim. Traditionally, only the following types of medical providers constitute acceptable medical sources-physicians, psychologists, school psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists, and speech-language pathologists. For applications for disability benefits filed on or after March 27, 2017, the SSA has expanded the umbrella of professionals who may be considered acceptable medical sources to include a licensed audiologist (for hearing-related impairments), a licensed advanced practice registered nurse or other licensed advanced practice nurse (for impairments within his or her licensed scope of practice), and a licensed physician assistant (for impairments within his or her licensed scope of practice).

There are different levels of weight that can be given to sources of medical evidence based on several factors. For example, a provider who qualifies as an acceptable medical source who has provided medical treatment or evaluation and who has had an ongoing treatment relationship with the claimant is known as a treating source. A treating source’s medical opinion on the issue of the nature and severity of the claimant’s impairment that is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the record will be given controlling weight (the highest level of deference given to medical evidence). The factors to be considered in determining the weight to give such evidence are supportability, consistency, relationship with the client, and other factors.

A statement by a medical source that a claimant is disabled or unable to work will not be held to be determinative. This is because the final responsibility for determining whether an individual meets or equals a listing, along with determining residual functional capacity or the application of vocational factors is reserved to the Social Security Administration.

A decision by another government agency that classifies an individual as disabled or unemployable is not binding on the SSA because such a decision will not have been based on the same rules utilized by the SSA.

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