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Opinions of Treating Sources in Social Security Disability

     In Social Security Disability or SSI claims, the residual functional capacity ("RFC") (to learn more about exertional levels click here) of the Claimant is very often the determining factor in whether the person is found disabled. The SSA looks to what physicians, psychologists, or other medical sources have to say about the individual's limitations or abilities. Opinions from treating sources are particularly valuable.

     In Blakely v. Commissioner of Social Security, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that in assessing medical evidence supporting a claim for disability benefits, the ALJ must adhere to certain standards. Blakely v. Commissioner of Social Security, 581 F.3d 399 (6th Cir. 2009). That standard, known as the Treating Physician Rule, requires the ALJ to give greater deference to the opinions of treating physicians than the opinions of non-treating physicians because:

These sources are likely to be the medical professionals most able to provide a detailed, longitudinal picture of the [claimant's] medical impairment(s) and may bring a unique perspective to the medical evidence that cannot be obtained from the objective medical findings alone or from reports of individual examinations such as consultive examinations or brief hospitalizations.

Id. at 406. Even if the ALJ does not accord controlling weight to the treating physician, the ALJ must still determine how much weight is appropriate. Id. See also 20 C.F.R. §416.927, POMS DI 24515.002, DI 24515.003, SSR 96-2(p). If the Administrative Law Judge does not accord controlling weight to a treating physician, regulations require the Administrative Law Judge to always give good reasons in the determination or decision for weight given to the claimant's treating source opinion. Id. at 407; 20 C.F.R. 404.1527(d)(2).

     In determining the question of substantiality of evidence, the reports of physicians who have treated a patient over a period of time or who are consulted for purposes of treatment are given greater weight than are reports of physicians employed and paid by the government for the purpose of defending against a disability claim.  Rineholt v. Astrue, 617 F.Supp. 2d 733; U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33850 (2009) quoting Allen v. Califano, 613 F.2d 139, 145 (6th Cir. 1980).

     If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI, personal injury, EEOICPA, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout Tennessee.

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