Obtaining Social Security disability (SSD) benefits can be difficult. One of the most common reasons to be denied benefits is that you did not provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) with enough quality medical evidence to find you disabled. Both Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSDI/SSI) programs require that you provide information from “acceptable medical sources” to show that you are disabled. By understanding what types of sources are acceptable, you can not only prevent denial of your claim, but you can also expedite the process of evaluation.
What Kind of Medical Providers are “Acceptable?”
There are many sources of medical evidence. You may be treated by various physicians and receive health advice from a plethora of sources. The SSA will only consider “acceptable medical sources” when determining whether your impairment exists. Once the existence of that impairment is established, the SSA will consider all medical and non-medical evidence to determine severity. However, medical evidence always holds more power than non-medical evidence.
An acceptable medical source is that which originates from a licensed medical professional. Not all medical professionals must be doctors; however, they must all be licensed by a nationally recognized governing body that publishes and operates under standard guidelines. Examples of acceptable medical sources include the following:
- Licensed physicians – This may include a medical doctor (M.D.) or osteopathic doctor (D.O.). Both have received significant medical training and operate under an established set of guidelines.
- Licensed or certified psychologists – This may include any licensed psychologist, even if they do not have a medical doctorate degree. In Georgia, licensed psychologists may have a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) with an emphasis in psychology or a related field. School and institutional psychologists are typically qualified as acceptable medical sources as well.
- Specialists – The best evidence often comes from a licensed medical doctor who specializes in a field that is related to your condition. This may include a licensed podiatrist, licensed optometrist, qualified speech-language pathologists, etc.
Obtaining Medical Evidence from Treating Sources
Once you find a medical provider who is licensed and will be considered “acceptable” by the SSA, you should receive extensive and ongoing treatment from that provider. The SSA puts emphasis on evidence from treating sources because they are more likely to accurately provide a “detailed longitudinal picture” of your impairments.
A treating provider is one that has seen you on a regular basis and has documented the progression of your condition. Medical notes would contain an assessment of your condition, including date of onset, treatment provided, effectiveness of treatment, details about your symptoms, and an assessment whether you are likely to malinger, or exaggerate your symptoms. These details are all important for establishing that you have a disabling condition as well as the severity of that impairment.
What Kind of Medical Evidence is Acceptable?
In addition to providing evidence from an acceptable medical source, that evidence must be verifiable. Verifiable medical evidence is that which can be proven objectively, or outside of the influence of emotions. Medical evidence must be based on facts and quantifiable measurements. Examples of verifiable medical evidence includes
- Clinical and laboratory tests – By far, the most reliable type of medical information is that which can be tested in an objective manner. MRIs, CAT scans, X-rays, biopsies, and blood screenings are all taken in closed environments that prevent outside interference. They measure your results against a set of medically average determinables, and assess your condition on the same scale that is used for every patient. There is little interpretation required, which would allow for inaccuracies and outside influence.
- Mental exams – Although mental health conditions can be difficult to prove, verifiable mental exams may be performed by licensed psychiatrists or psychologists. Those exams are geared to determine the extent and severity of your condition while assessing your likelihood of malingering. Thus, these exams have built-in quality assurance measures.
- Physician and emergency room notes – Office notes from physician visits and trips to urgent care facilities or emergency rooms (ER) provide a detailed look at your conditions. Although those notes often contain subjective information that you give to medical providers, it also includes an objective assessment according to a standard of care practiced by those medical providers.
Our Augusta Social Security Disability Lawyers Can Help
Social Security disability benefits can be difficult to obtain. You must provide verifiable medical evidence from acceptable medical sources to support a claim for Social Security Disability benefits in order to prove that you have a potentially disabling condition. The SSA will also use that information to determine the severity of your condition. It is important to receive ongoing medical treatment from a licensed provider while undergoing treatment that is verifiable.
If you have any questions regarding your Social Security disability impairment or how to obtain medical treatment that holds weight in your case, contact our Augusta Social Security Disability lawyers with Wilkinson & Magruder LLP today at (706) 955-2333.