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Social Security

  • Writer's pictureStephanie O. Joy, Esq.

SSD/SSI Claimants: You MUST Treat with "Acceptable" Medical Sources (and Then Add the Gravy)

Updated: Apr 3, 2022

Note: This article is for general information only and is not legal advice to any particular reader or individual. For legal advice, you must specifically retain a lawyer who evaluates your specific situation.

Too many claimants file their very meritorious pro se claim for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) knowing quite well they absolutely cannot work full time, at any occupation, due to their medical conditions. However, they enter the battle without the ammo needed to prevail, and they don't even know it. They file without having the current/past legally necessary kind of treatment that will render required admissible evidence. They lose their claim as a result, and losing can mean the end of the opportunity to even file again (see other blog for more on that).

In a word, talk is cheap. What you say, assert, claim, means virtually, zero, for all intents and purposes (unless it is contrary to your interests, which, similar to state and federal court rules of evidence, brings with it a level of credibility, by its very nature.). However, we want evidence that is in support of (not contrary to) your interests in prevailing on your claim. So let's go over what that means you and only you, need to focus on.

In order to even reach an early required step in the sequential process, one has to have proper proof of one or more MDIs ("medically determinable impairment"). To be an MDI, it has to be found and accepted as such in the records of an "Acceptable Medical Source", (AMS) as defined by the SSA. (You are not an acceptable medical source, in all likelihood, and your attorney is not, nor is your mom, friend, employer, etc.) This means a chiropractor, whose treatment and records can provide great evidentiary details AFTER you've met your burden of an MDI, that can potentially help your case, cannot be used INSTEAD of the legall required following. The same holds true for your mental health therapist/counselor and your physical therapist, if you have one. Those are the gravy and do much to help a case (more on that in another blog), but they don't help you get past that required early step in the sequential process. CRITICAL DON'T DO: Moreover, don't drop an AMS after a diagnosis in favor of a non-AMS, or you will most likely weaken your case, which must remain very strong evidence-wise, for the entire duration of your claim and thereafter. Such AMS sources include: (a) Acceptable medical source means a medical source who is a:

(1) Licensed physician (medical or osteopathic doctor);[a psychiatrist falls within this category]

(2) Licensed psychologist, which includes:

(i) A licensed or certified psychologist at the independent practice level; or

(ii) A licensed or certified school psychologist, or other licensed or certified individual with another title who performs the same function as a school psychologist in a school setting, for impairments of intellectual disability, learning disabilities, and borderline intellectual functioning only;

(3) Licensed optometrist for impairments of visual disorders, or measurement of visual acuity and visual fields only, depending on the scope of practice in the State in which the optometrist practices;

(4) Licensed podiatrist for impairments of the foot, or foot and ankle only, depending on whether the State in which the podiatrist practices permits the practice of podiatry on the foot only, or the foot and ankle;

(5) Qualified speech-language pathologist for speech or language impairments only. For this source, qualified means that the speech-language pathologist must be licensed by the State professional licensing agency, or be fully certified by the State education agency in the State in which he or she practices, or hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association;

(6) Licensed audiologist for impairments of hearing loss, auditory processing disorders, and balance disorders within the licensed scope of practice only (with respect to claims filed (see § 404.614) on or after March 27, 2017);

(7) Licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, or other licensed advanced practice nurse with another title, for impairments within his or her licensed scope of practice (only with respect to claims filed (see § 404.614) on or after March 27, 2017); or

(8) Licensed Physician Assistant for impairments within his or her licensed scope of practice (only with respect to claims filed (see § 404.614) on or after March 27, 2017).

For SSD/SSI representation consideration, please fill out our free Attorney Evaluation form. We do not charge a retainer to serve you. If, on the other hand, you seek an attorney level consultation/analysis of a particular situation, whether you are a company or an individual, or to discuss your own situation without representation, to learn information beyond that information you may obtain for free from the SSA itself, and you do not otherwise have a lawyer representing your before the SSA, you may order a scheduled consultation at affordable attorney rates. Contact the office at 201-317-0610 or email

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