Question: The Social Security doctor says that I can work, but my own doctor says I can’t. Which one will the Judge listen to?
Answer: Actually, the Judge will listen to both doctors, but the important question is how much “weight” will he give to each doctor.
Medical opinions are statements from physicians and psychologists or other acceptable medical sources that reflect judgments about the nature and severity of your impairment(s).
The Social Security Administration normally will use two doctors in evaluating your case. One is the doctor that you actually go see in his office where you will be examined. The other doctor you will not actually see, but this doctor will review your medical records and prepare a report for your file. This doctor is known as a non-examining physician.
Therefore, you may actually have three different sets of physician’s records and/or opinions in your file. One is from a non-examining physician that you have never seen; the other is from the doctor that you were sent to by Social Security; and the third will be the opinions and records of your treating physician. The Administrative Law Judge must consider all three physicians’ records and opinions.
Generally, the treating physician is given the most weight in evaluating your impairments. This is due to the fact that he or she is usually more familiar with you and your problems. One of the factors that is typically looked at is the length of time the physician has treated you and the nature and extent of the treatment relationship.
The Regulation states “If we find that a treating source’s opinion on the issue(s) of the nature and severity of your impairment(s) is well supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in your case record, we will give it controlling weight.”
Therefore, typically, the opinions of the treating physician are going to be more important to the Administrative Law Judge than the opinions of consulting physicians and non-examining physicians.
The above information will not apply to cases filed on or after March 27, 2017. For cases filed from that date forward, the Social Security Administration will not give special weight to the opinions of the treating source. Instead, medical opinions will be evaluated equally for "persuasiveness," based on consistency and supportability.