How is Evidence Considered in a Social Security Disability Case?

Injured man securing xray results of his injured leg as evidence for social security disability.

The Social Security Administration makes its decision based on medical evidence such as medical testing, lab findings and treatment records, so it is very important for someone who is applying or has a pending Social Security Disability benefits case to seek and keep receiving medical treatment. Each Social Security claimant is responsible for providing medical evidence showing he or she has a diagnosed condition supported by objective evidence, and that symptoms of the impairment(s) are of the severity to prevent them from working at any job in the national economy.

Social Security will consider evidence from “acceptable medical sources,” which includes licensed physicians; licensed or certified psychologists; school psychologists; licensed optometrist for impairments of the eye or vision; licensed podiatrists for impairments of the foot; licensed or certified speech-language pathologist for speech or language impairments; licensed physician assistants for impairments within their scope of practice; licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurse or other licensed advanced practice nurse for impairments within their scope of practice; and licensed audiologist for impairments of hearing, auditory processing disorders or balance disorder within their scope of practice. Only one of these medical providers can establish a medical diagnosis under Social Security’s criteria.

Opinions of a nonacceptable medical source, such as physical therapists, chiropractors, or therapist, can still be helpful evidence to establish symptoms and efforts to reduce symptoms. Nonmedical sources, such as caregivers, educational personnel, friends, or past employers, can also be important to help show the consistency of symptoms and their effects.

A medical opinion is very important to assist Social Security in determining if a person is able to work with their impairments.  A medical opinion is a statement from a medical source about what you are still able to do considering the effects of your impairment(s). This could include a statement about your abilities to do the physical demands of work (such as sit, stand, walk, lift, bend, or use of hands); ability to do the mental demands of work (examples of: understand, remember, concentrate, or interact with others); ability to do the other demands of work such as seeing or hearing; and ability to adapt to environmental conditions such as exposure to temperature extremes, fumes, or hazards.

When considering a medical opinion the Social Security Administration will look at how well the opinion is supported by that medical source’s notes and objective findings and how consistent that opinion is with the other evidence.  If a medical opinion is found equally well supported and consistent, Social Security will then consider additional factors concerning the medical provider’s relationship to the claimant. They will look at factors including: the length of the treatment relationship, the frequency of exams, the purpose of the treatment relationship, extent of the treatment relationship, the specialization of the medical providers, the provider’s familiarity with other evidence in the record, and their knowledge of the disability program.

Contact the experienced attorneys at The Sawaya Law Firm to assist you in gathering your evidence and medical opinions needed to be the most successful in your Social Security Disability benefits claim.


Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.