What Do I Do If My Doctor is Not an Acceptable Medical Source?

Social Security has some very particular ideas about what kind of doctor’s records they will use to decide if you have a medical impairment. You can learn more about this here: How To Tell If You Are Seeing Mr. Right

What Do I Do If My Doctor is Not an Acceptable Medical Source?

If your doctor is not an Acceptable Medical Source, don’t panic. You still have some options:

💜 You can find a new doctor. How to Find a Doctor to Help With Disability Documentation

💜 You can check if your doctor is part of 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.

💜 You can have more than one doctor. However, it is very helpful if you have strong medical evidence from at least one doctor who is an Acceptable Medical Source.

💜 You can stay with your current doctor and see if it’s possible for their records and reports to be co-signed by a doctor who is an Acceptable Medical Source: How to Get a Co-Sign

💜 You can go forward without any Acceptable Medical Source doctors. When you apply or get reviewed, Social Security may send you to an appointment with the Social Security doctor. If this doctor finds your condition is severe and disabling, this can help your case. However, if this doctor finds your condition or limitations are not severe, this could cause difficulties, particularly if your own doctor is not an Acceptable Medical Source.

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 their notes and records do not agree about how severe your limitations are, Social Security may give more consideration to the Acceptable Medical Source and the other doctor may be ignored.

What do I do if I have a form or report that is not signed by the right kind of doctor?

If you already have a report or form that is not signed by an acceptable medical source, you may find this page helpful: How to Get a Co-Sign

Will I have to use the old rules forever?

If you applied before March 27, 2017, there is a loophole that may let you change to the new rules at some point: Acceptable Medical Source Rules for Continuing Disability Reviews

How Important is it to have the Right Kind of Doctor?

Here’s three stories that may help you decide for yourself:

🌻 Daisy’s lawyer waited until two weeks before her hearing to tell her she had the wrong kind of doctor! At the last minute, Daisy decided to travel all the way to another state to make sure she had a letter from the right kind of doctor. She won her case.

🌻 Patty’s lawyer never told her she had the wrong kind of doctor. Because of this, the judge ignored many of her medical records and lab reports. She lost her case.

🌻 Belladonna took some super extra special steps to make sure her medical report was signed by the right kind of doctor. She won her case.

What Do You Think?

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14 thoughts on “What Do I Do If My Doctor is Not an Acceptable Medical Source?”

  1. I have had good results getting acceptable medical source approval for my therapist by going to a graduate student therapy clinic associated with a school. To graduate and get licensed to practice therapy, students have to practice for a year under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, and that licensed psychologist’s name is on everything. They are also usually cheaper. The downside is that the graduate student will change every year, so you have to keep reintroducing yourself.


  2. Your articles are very good, and give solid info and advice. I’m a former ssa employee and mom of a disabled child.


  3. Should I include records from my Physical Therapist as part of the records I collect? I wanted to make sure that it was noted that I did my due diligence to create the best outcomes after surgeries and whenever my Dr. recommended I try a series of PT visits.


    1. Records from a physical therapist can be helpful if they support what your doctor is writing.

      Sometimes physical therapists overemphasize “improvement” in their records because this helps them get insurance approval for more sessions. If you wish, you can check with your PT to try to make sure she is writing accurate notes.


  4. My ALJ was a total beezy and dismissed what my ME/CFS MD w/ 30 yrs experience wrote (I saw him for 3 yrs starting less than a yr after my SSI claim submission), as well as the MD who saw my health collapsing w/ total relapse at college and who wrote a medical note recommending I withdraw and excusing me from the semester twice. I had a tilt table test done at a big reputable local hospital by my cardiologist. He noted I had moderate POTS…based on objective numbers during the test (and myself talking here)…Plus ME of course makes it very exhausting. The ALJ wrote in her denial (which included other misinformation and twisted information) that POTS is a broadly mild condition! Lol! So…apparently she knows better than an objective tilt table test & a cardiologist of like 30 yrs. Btw he is now in a group affiliated w/ the Cleveland Clinic. Top 100 in the nation. The ALJ said (possibly before she turned the recording on) to myself, my lawyer, and my dad…that she had no idea about ME/CFS or POTS, but that she’d look it up & learn (I handed her a copy of SS’s 2014 ME/CFS policy update). Apparently she didn’t do that. Evil intent to twist facts how she did…to the point of dishonesty, in my opinion…and factually in some cases based on solid evidence. She also dismissed what my parents wrote…my mom is a person of integrity & has been a public employee for decades including driving school bus about 15 yrs then teaching elementary school. My dad served 2 terms on city council & has owned his own business about 40 yrs. The ALJ said they’re too close & basically could be lying. Yet they are my caregivers and know the nitty gritty of my situation. I can’t go up to someone on the street that doesn’t know me and ask them to write something. Other family members know I’m ill but I don’t go around telling extended family the depth of my suffering. B/c them further worrying doesn’t solve anything. And, some privacy is nice. Not everyone knowing I shower approx once a wk when doing rough. Or that my mom has helped wash my hair or dad dry my hair at worst. The appeals council didn’t disagree w/ the ALJ. They don’t know her untruths apparently…some I would know personally, or if listened to my statements in court. (For instance that I cook for myself approx 1x a month b/c I enjoy it so I spend a little precious energy doing it…that I use a stool and put my feet up whilst things frying in pan…that otherwise I save my energy for basics like self-care/bathing when can…that my mom & dad buy food & mom prepares food. I then heat what she cooked and leaves in fridge in the microwave or micro a frozen meal…the judge just wrote that I cook for myself!! Uh, no I don’t. Total misrepresentation & misunderstanding ME & POTS.) Some if one understood POTS. Hopefully this coming wk I’ll be up to going to lawyer for possible federal/dist court case. Then concurrently re-applying. Feels like they (ALJ’s) can write whatever they want and its accepted as fact. Any idea how productive an “infair treatment” form is on the judge & decision? Whole process feels like falling down a staircase of injustice. New lawyer might help some. Thank you for this resource!


      1. Thank you! This judge was supposedly a nicer judge per my lawyer…before this decision at least. Any experience or tips on an unfair treatment form (can do one for judge experience) for S.S.? Idk if there’s a post on this topic. My lawyer at the time (for yrs…however balls were dropped and it was a stressful experience b/c I had to stay on top of things even though I had a lawyer, also I never got to meet her before court…mtg cancelled when we were heading to the car to go there…instead a ~10-15 min phone call) said to hold off on the form in case I’d get the same judge again. I had a partial remission from 17.5-21 y.o. after debilitated 14-17 y.o. Total relapse at 22. I think it was possibly confusing to them that I could be doing better then much worse. MS can relapse and remit however. It can be the nature of chronic illness. Like people can even have cancer and be very ill w/ it and/or treatments. Then better for yrs, then sick again sometimes. So, the concept isn’t terribly far fetched to grasp.


  5. I’m confused by this as I have only had ARNPs (nurse practitioners) in the last few years treating me. Insisting the provider is a “MD” would only serve to harm those who often have to see ARNPs due to being on Medicaid. Every since I’ve been on Medicaid, I have only been given the option to see an ARNP for medication monitoring and even for other general health issues. Some don’t have the financial resources to get “another doctor”, while others are too sick or unable to direct their medical care. Because 3 lawyers declined to represent me, I actually wrote my own request for an OTR decision and it was granted relatively immediately. I did have my therapist and ARNP do an RCF form for me. It wasn’t easy, but I was persistent. This process seems so unfair for some. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love to see the OTR you wrote if you are interested in sharing. Congrats on that.

      I agree these rules are unfair, especially to medicaid patients. Many people do pass reviews without problem while seeing NPs. It’s just that sometimes these rules can cause an issue for some people.

      Liked by 1 person

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