Based on new SSA rules that became effective in March 2017, it’s easier now to win cases using evidence from Social Security Administration’s (SSA) nonacceptable medical sources. Learn how to use these opinions to benefit your case and help your client.
Nonacceptable Medical Sources: What Are They?
Social Security Administration's policies indicate there are acceptable medical sources (AMS), and then there are medical sources that are neither acceptable for the purposes of diagnosing impairments at the Social Security Disability’s (SSD) Step 2, nor for finding disability at SSA’s Step 3. Frequently, nonacceptable medical sources include licensed practical nurses, counselors, and therapists.
Using Evidence from Nonacceptable Medical Sources
The fact is many medical records often contain progress notes and medical opinions made by medical sources that are simply not acceptable sources by SSA standards. However, these notes can be used to discuss and highlight the intensity and frequency of symptoms and help build that residual functional capacity, which is the foundation of finding disability under SSA guidelines. Moreover, opinions from nonacceptable medical sources can absolutely be used to show a client is disabled, and more effective if they are consistent with the evidence of record.
Evidence of Intensity and Frequency of Symptoms
Begin framing your disability argument and building the residual functional capacity by using information, such as:
Prescribed narcotic pain medication
Increased dosage of medication due to worsening symptoms
Aggressive/invasive procedures and treatments such as surgery required because conservative treatment failed to reduce symptoms
Remember to show how often symptoms occurred throughout a day, week, or month. By demonstrating how symptoms responded to treatment and how they occurred, you can persuade SSA adjudicators.
Opinions from SSA’s Nonacceptable Medical Sources
Disability opinions made by SSA’s nonacceptable medical sources must be considered. Use evidence to show how the opinion remains consistent with other opinions and is supported by the medical evidence of record. In the case that an opinion differs from other opinions or a determination, demonstrate why this specific opinion is more aligned with the medical evidence based on how symptoms persisted or worsened despite treatment. Remember, when supporting disability with the SSA, objective evidence is more persuasive, such as MRIs and laboratory work.
By using evidence from the source making the opinion and proving the opinion is supported by the medical evidence, you can further persuade the adjudicator to find your client disabled.