HOW DOES THE SSA WEIGH MEDICAL EVIDENCE?
Your treating doctor told you that you have a disability that prevent you from working. Does this mean the Judge at the hearing will adopt what your doctor said and grant you disability benefits? You would think that your treating doctor’s opinion would matter a lot to the Judge in your case. However, SSA’s approach toward treating physician’s opinions is not what you might expect.
SSA’S OLD APPROACH TO TREATING DOCTOR’S MEDICAL OPINIONS
Prior to March 27, 2017, the treating doctor opinion as to the claimant’s disability was given controlling weight. Especially, if the doctor’s opinion was well supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and was not inconsistent with other substantial evidence. For example, the judge would give controlling weight to your doctor if her opinion didn’t conflict with SSA’s doctor’s opinion.
When a treating source opinion is not given controlling weight, greater weight is usually given to the opinion of an examining physician over that of a non-examining source. SSA defines a treating source as a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist, etc., who has had an ongoing treatment relationship with the claimant. This does not mean three visits. Instead, it means a relationship where visits are consistent with the type of treatment usually given for the medical condition.
There are other factors the Judge could consider. For example, the Judge considered the length, frequency, nature, and extent of the treating relationship. Other factors were whether the doctor’s progress notes support her opinion. The Judge looked at how consistent the medical opinion was over time over time. Additionally, the doctor’s specialization or expertise in the medical filed was a factor.
SSA’S CURRENT APPROACH TO TREATING DOCTOR OPINION ABOUT DISABILITY
For claims filed on or after March 27, 2017, the SSA issued new rules. The new rules state the Judge will not give any specific weight, including controlling weight, to any medical doctor opinion regarding disability. This includes the medical opinions from treating physicians. However, the regulations state that for claims filed after March 27, 2017, when two medical opinions are equally persuasive. And all the other factors will be taken into account. Such as, supportability, consistency, and the doctor’s relationship with the claimant. In addition, the Judge will look at the length of the treatment relationship, frequency of examinations, and specialization, among other factors.
Even though the Judge doesn’t give controlling weight to your doctor’s opinion, it is still important to get that opinion. Your doctor should be supportive of you winning benefits. She sold write a letter about your disability and explain why you cannot work. You doctor should also be able to talk about your functional limitations. For example, she could write about your limits with lifting, sitting, standing, and walking. She could also explain why you cannot work a 40 hour work week.
ARGUE THE TREATING DOCTOR OPINION ABOUT DISABILITY IS THE MOST CREDIBLE
Once you have your doctor’s medical opinion, your attorney should argue that it should be given greater weight than other opinions. Because your doctor’s opinion is more reliable due to the above factors. At Cannon Disability Law, we make this argument to the judge whenever we can. We want the judge to listen to what your doctor has to say. We believe your treating doctor’s opinion should matter more than a doctor who has only seen you one time.
If you need help with your disability case, contact Cannon Disability Law. We have won over 18,000 disability cases in the last 30 years. Also, we have the experience you need to win your disability benefits. We can often tell you over the phone if you have a good case and if we can help you. It is free to call and talk to us. Additionally, there are no attorneys fees unless we win your case. If we don’t win, you do not pay an attorney fee. Therefore, you have nothing to lose by calling to discuss your case today.