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

Social Security has some very particular ideas about what kind of doctor they would like you to see. If you first applied before 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)

πŸ’œ 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 / LCSW
  • Chiropractors
  • Counselors
  • Chiropractors
  • Physical therapists
  • Naturopaths (unless they are also MDs)
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physicians assistants
  • All other practitioners

πŸ’œ What if my mental health doctor is not a psychiatrist or psychologist?

In some cases, this will be OK, as long as you are also seeing an Acceptable Medical Source. For example, if you are going to an MD who is prescribing psych meds, and then going to a counselor for therapy, and both doctors agree that your mental health condition is severe.

πŸ’œ What if my doctor works as part of a team?

Sometimes practitioners work as a team. For example, a nurse practitioner might have an MD 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.

πŸ’œ Who can fill out forms for me?

If you are applying for disability, one of the best things you can do to help your case is ask your doctor to fill out an RFC function form for you. 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, here are a few options:

  • You can ask them if they have a supervising physician who can co-sign your medical forms. For example, sometimes a counselor or therapist will be supervised by a psychologist or psychiatrist
  • You can ask them if they work on a medical team with someone who can co-sign this form.
  • You can ask them if someone else at their practice can meet with you and do an assessment to fill out this form.
  • You can ask them to fill out the form and then bring it to your own doctor and ask your doc to review it and co-sign it if they agree with it (attach an extra page where your doc can sign)
  • You can ask them to fill out the form and then bring it to your own doctor and ask your doc to review it and write a letter for you that they agree with the medical findings on this form. Attach this as a cover letter to the form before you send it back to Social Security.

πŸ’œ 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.

πŸ’œ 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 (or part of a team, see above). Ideally, this will be the main doctor that supports your application and is willing to work with you and complete disability paperwork for you.

πŸ’œ What do I do if I have a form that is not signed by the right kind of doctor?

If you have a report or form that is not signed by an acceptable medical source, check out:Β How to Turn Water Into Wine

Updated August 2017. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. πŸ’œ

2 thoughts on “The Right Kind of Doctor – applied before March 27, 2017”

  1. I have heard from people where I live who are on Medicaid that the only people listed on their Medicaid insurance plans for psychotherapy/counseling etc. are LCSW social workers.
    If SS only considers actual psychologists legitimate for these purposes, what can Medicaid patients do ?
    Is there a way besides the insurance you know of to possibly see an actual psychologist (assuming you can’t pay cash of course) ?


    1. I think if someone sees a social worker for counseling PLUS a psychiatrist for meds, and treatment records from both are good, that combination could be very strong for Social Security. If there is no psychiatrist possible, they could do an MD, but psychiatrist would be stronger.


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