In a significant number of our Social Security Disability claims, our clients have what are called “medical source opinions.” These opinions usually come from treating physicians or other treating sources. We recently reviewed a medical source statement from a treating physician that limited our client in just two areas. But those two areas were key and enough to win the case. We have also appealed cases because the Administrative Law Judge did not weigh the particular opinion contained in the medical source statement that supported disability. A review of any medical source opinion will reveal that it contains multiple opinions about multiple abilities. A good place to see this is in a state agency mental assessment. The form contains 20 categories that are each rated on a sliding scale including “severe” and “extreme” limitations. So a single 3-4 page medical source statement will often carry multiple distinct medical source opinions.
Not all opinions, however, are disabling or even significantly limiting, and would support a disability. Without getting into the particulars of age and transferrable skills, a limitation to a maximum of 20 pounds of lifting might only limit someone from performing medium or heavy work. But that same individual with a 20 pound lifting restriction might still be able to perform light and sedentary work. Many clients have several limitations that an Administrative Law Judge will consider sufficiently well supported to preclude certain kinds of work.
All claimants should work with their attorneys and their treating sources to get the medical source statements and opinions to the judges who will decide their cases. The regulations require the judge to “evaluate every medical opinion” submitted. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2013). But this regulation may look better on paper than it sometimes works in practice. It takes the right opinions in the right areas to win a disability claim.
If you have questions about the statements in this article, feel free to call us.