In general, Social Security will only give controlling weight to the opinion of a medical doctor. However, under certain circumstances, Social Security will give greater weight to the opinions of those who are not deemed acceptable treating sources.
I represent a 36 year old teacher whose Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits were approved today based largely on the opinion of a Social Worker. The Social Security rules provide that evidence from non-acceptable medical sources can be used to show the severity of the individual's impairment(s) and how it affects the individual's ability to function just as an acceptable medical source. In fact, 06-3p states that in some circumstances, such as when the source frequently treats the claimant over a long period of time, the non-acceptable source’s opinion can be given even greater weight than an accepted medical source.
The Social Worker was found to treat the claimant frequently, and because of his special knowledge of the claimant, was believed to have insight into the severity of the mental impairment. The functional limitations identified by the Social Worker were found to preclude the claimant from working. Opinions regarding the restrictions and limitations caused by medical conditions should always be sought from anyone who treats those conditions even if they are not medical doctors.