The Right Kind of Doctor – applied after March 27, 2017

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Social Security has some very particular ideas about what kind of doctor they would like you to see. If you first applied on or after March 27, 2017, these rules will apply to you.

Social Security considers these doctors to be Acceptable Medical Sources:

  • Medical Doctor (MD)
  • Osteopathic doctor (DO)
  • Licensed psychiatrists (mental health)
  • Licensed or certified psychologists at the independent practice level (mental health)
  • School psychologists, or licensed individuals who perform the same function as a school psychologist (for intellectual disability, learning disabilities, and borderline intellectual functioning only).
  • Licensed optometrists (visual disorders only)
  • Licensed podiatrists (impairments of the foot and ankle only)
  • Licensed or certified speech-language pathologists (speech or language)
  • Licensed audiologists (hearing loss, auditory processing disorders, and balance disorders within the licensed scope of practice – some balance impairments may be out of scope)
  • Licensed Physician Assistants (for impairments within the licensed scope of practice only).
  • Licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN), Advanced Practice Nurse (APN), and Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM); Nurse Practitioner (NP); Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA); and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) – for impairments within his or her licensed scope of practice.

💜 What about other practitioners?

Other practitioners may be helpful to your case, but Social Security does not consider these “acceptable medical sources” and you cannot win based solely on these records. Records from these providers are supporting evidence. They are like the icing on the cake. They will help your case. But they are not the cake.

  • Therapists
  • Social Workers
  • Chiropractors
  • Counselors
  • Chiropractors
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Naturopaths (unless they are also MDs)
  • All other practitioners

💜 What if my doctor works as part of a team?

Sometimes people work as a team or they are supervised. For example, a therapist might have a supervising psychiatrist who reviews and oversees the treatment. Check your records. Any records that include the “written, typed, or signed name and credentials” of an Acceptable Medical Source are considered Acceptable Medical Source evidence.

💜 Who can fill out forms for me?

One of the best things you can do to help your case is ask your doctor to fill out a function form. However, it can be much (much!) more helpful if these are signed by an Acceptable Medical Source. If your function form is filled out by someone who is not an Acceptable Medical Source, you can ask them if they have a supervising MD who can co-sign your medical forms.

💜 What if I have more than one doctor?

If you have more than one doctor, you can have one who is an acceptable medical source and one who is not. However, if they do not agree about how disabled you are, Social Security will pay attention to the acceptable medical source and the other doctor may be ignored.

💜 What happens if I have the wrong kind of doctor?

It is extremely important that at least one of your doctors is an Acceptable Medical Source. Ideally, this will be the main doctor that supports your application and is willing to work with you and complete disability paperwork for you. Cautionary tale: No one ever told Patty was seeing the wrong kind of doctor.

💜 If you have a mental health diagnosis 

In the ideal world, you would be regularly seeing a licensed psychologist or licensed psychiatrist. I have heard from some people that they found psychologists were more helpful than psychiatrists with disability applications — though there are exceptions to this rule.

💜 Now what?

Once you find the right kind of doctor, it’s a great idea to talk to your doc about your disability case and find out if they support your application. Also, you may wish to ask about their relocation and retirement plans so you know when to start looking for your next Mr. or Ms. Right.


Updated April 2017 by Lily Silver. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let me know if any links on this page stop working. 💜

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