The Treating Doctor Rule

By Melissa A. Davidson

A treating physician can be the most valuable evidence in your Social Security Disability case. Under Social Security Ruling 96-2p, SSA (Social Security Administration) may adopt your doctor’s opinion as its own if it is well supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. This means that SSA will look to see if your doctor’s opinion is supported by x-rays, MRIs, exam findings and other notes your doctor makes about you. Finally, a treating doctor’s opinion must be “not inconsistent with other substantial evidence” in the case record. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2). In other words, the greater weight of the evidence must support the doctor’s conclusions. If an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decides not to give the doctor’s conclusions controlling weight, the decision maker must provide good reasons for the weight given to the doctor’s opinion. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2).

According to SSR 06–3p, opinions from other sources such as therapists, chiropractors, and nurse practitioners must be evaluated using the same factors used in weighing the opinion of your doctor – such as length of treatment, specialty of the provider, and consistency with other evidence.

Please talk to your doctors, therapists, nurse practitioners and other caregivers about your Social Security disability case. If s/he says that you are doing the right thing by seeking disability benefits, then ask if they would be willing to fill out a form to help your case. Simply call the office and request a form for your doctor to fill out. We have many forms that are specific for your particular illness, including but not limited to:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart Conditions
  • Headaches
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Mental Disorders
  • Seizure Disorders