Although many of us receive our primary medical care from a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, the Social Security Administration (SSA) would not accept their opinions when reviewing their patients’ SSDI or SSI claims. So even though the PA or CRNP probably saw the patient more often than the doctor, a patient who filed for disability would have to seek an opinion from a doctor. Understandably, doctors were sometimes reluctant to offer such opinions since they haven’t been personally treating the client and observing the changes in the patient’s condition. This put disability claimants in a difficult position since they could not receive benefits without medical support for their claim.
Thankfully, the SSA has changed its rules to reflect the reality of modern medical treatment. Nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and audiologists are now considered to be acceptable medical sources within their licensed scope of practice. SSA also changed their definition of “medical opinion” so the focus is now on the claimant’s functional abilities and limitations, as opposed to diagnosis. Hopefully, these common sense changes will allow everyone involved with disability claims to focus on the merits of the claim as opposed to the prerequisites necessary to entertain a treatment provider’s statements.