In order to qualify for disability benefits through either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must have medical evidence to support your claim that you are completely disabled. As you might expect, Social Security Administration (SSA) is rather particular about the kind of medical evidence it will accept and review as well as the source from which it comes.
SSA advises that you must assemble and submit your records from all acceptable medical sources. For purposes of disability benefits, an “acceptable medical source” is a person or institution that can provide evidence to support the existence of your disability. The evidence you provide should meet the guidelines provided in SSA’s diagnostic Blue Book, although, as we’ve discussed before, you can still qualify for benefits under certain circumstances even if you don’t meet all the criteria listed in the Blue Book.
Examples of acceptable medical sources include physicians, optometrists, podiatrists, psychologists, and speech language pathologists. After March 27, 2017, additional medical sources became acceptable for individuals who filed claims on or after that date, including licensed audiologists, licensed physician assistants, and licensed advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). There are four kinds of APRNs: 1) certified nurse midwife (CNM); 2) nurse practitioner (NP); 3) certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA); and 4) clinical nurse specialist (CNS).
SSA also requires that you submit acceptable medical reports. These can include medical history, clinical findings, diagnoses, residual functional capacity, laboratory findings, and your treatment history, which includes your response to treatment. The residual functional capacity is a statement that details what you can do despite your physical, mental, or childhood disability.
You should know that SSA no longer gives special weight to the opinions of your treating physicians; instead, it will evaluate all medical opinions on an equal basis for persuasiveness. Persuasiveness is determined by supportability and consistency.
A medical opinion that is well-supported is one that is backed up by your reported symptoms, laboratory findings (i.e. blood tests or EKGs), and observable medical signs. To measure consistency, SSA looks at how the medical opinion stands up to the other evidence in your file, which can include your own statements, other medical records, and other medical opinions.
The more timely, accurate, and sufficient your medical evidence is in your file, the less likely that SSA will have to obtain additional evidence to evaluate whether you qualify for disability benefits. An experienced Social Security disability attorney can help ensure that the right information is in your file and increase the chances of your claim being accepted and approved.