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Acceptable Medical Evidence for Pennsylvania Social Security Claimants

Pennsylvania residents applying for Social Security Disability must meet eligibility requirements, including providing medical evidence of an impairment and demonstrating the severity of the impairment and its effect on their ability to function in a work setting.

The Social Security Administration helps claimants receive medical reports from medical sources. In the past, claimants were required to present medical evidence only from treating doctors, and this proved challenging for those patients who received care from nurse practitioners or chiropractors.  Currently, medical evidence documenting the existence of an impairment must come from medical professionals who are “acceptable medical sources,” as defined by Social Security Administration regulations. Once the impairment is established, non-medical sources provide information regarding the severity of the impairment.

Medical sources that are “acceptable” include licensed physicians, such as osteopathic and medical doctors.  Psychologists, including school psychologists, may establish intellectual or learning disabilities.  Optometrists can establish visual disorders, and podiatrists may provide evidence of impairments of the foot and ankle.  Qualified speech-language pathologists are considered acceptable sources for establishing language or speech impairments.

While the underlying diagnosis for a claimant must come from a physician, and the existence of the impairment must be certified in this manner, the Social Security Administration provides for other professionals and lay witnesses to demonstrate severity and ongoing functional limitations.  In other words, documentation other than physician evidence is given weight in determining the severity and limitations posed by the claimant’s impairment.

A Claimant’s Treating Sources are Given Weight in Evaluating an Impairment

Treatment sources have a great value because the Social Security Administration recognizes that these medical professionals can provide a detailed long-term picture of the claimant’s impairment.  Their perspective also rounds out the medical evidence.  A high percentage of claimants receive care from highly trained professionals, including physicians’ assistants, social workers, and nurse practitioners.  Teachers, counselors, and non-medical staff are also acceptable sources for evidence, as are spouses, clergy, and friends.  Opinion evidence is judged according to its consistency with other evidence and the degree to which it is supported by other medical records.

The benefit of considering all information is that it has a cumulative effect.  For example, if a person’s daily actions as observed by neighbors and friends demonstrate a psychiatric problem, these observations add detail that may be missing from the professional treatment notes.  While the medical record must include an impairment diagnosis from a doctor, these details help to create a full picture of the whole person. Evidence from sources such as schools, parents, and employers can show the extent to which the individual’s impairment affects their ability to function in a work setting.

The Pennsylvania attorneys at Needle Law have the Social Security knowledge and experience you need in filing your claim for benefits.  We can help you present your case in a strong manner so that the process is more likely to go smoothly. If you or a family member needs assistance with a claim, call our office today at 570-344-1266.

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