The Type of Evidence SSA Uses to Determine Disability

By Disability Group

Social Security Administration regulations state that a disability must be medically determinable; therefore medical evidence is crucial in determining disability.  There must be medical evidence that proves a condition exists and that it impairs your capacity to perform work related activities.

Types of medical evidence

Medical evidence comes in many different forms:

Medical records


Progress notes

Witness testimony (including vocational and medical experts)

Claimant’s testimony

What is the most convincing form of medical evidence?

Objective evidence is the most convincing.  Objective medical evidence takes the form of medical records that clearly prove a condition exists.  MRI’s, x-rays, pulmonary tests, and blood test are strong types of evidence.

What if I do not have an objective test to prove my condition exists?

In some cases there are no tests that prove a condition exists.  For example, there is no blood test that can prove someone is diagnosed with Fibromyalgia or Depression.  In such cases, progress notes from doctors or other treatment providers describing a condition and the ongoing treatment provided can help prove the condition exists.

It is important to note that although evidence in the form of testimony is considered, it is subjective, and generally not given as much weight as objective evidence.

How does Social Security obtain my medical evidence?

During the initial application phase, Social Security asks applicants for a list of doctors they receive treatment from and obtains releases for them.  Social Security will then make requests to these doctors for the applicant’s records.

It may be good idea to enlist the services of an attorney early on to help collect medical evidence.  The more supportive evidence collected, the better chance you have to obtain a fully favorable award.  Therefore, it is important to receive regular treatment from medical professionals.

Medical Source Statements (MSS)

MSS’s are more than broad statements stating an individual is disabled; rather, they are statements from a treating doctor about the limitations that come with a particular diagnosis.  Such statements, help a Judge decide whether an applicant can work based on cited limitations.   Documentation and statements from doctors should list all diagnoses and limitations.  For example, certain conditions may preclude a person from prolonged sitting, standing, walking, lifting, or carrying.  Other conditions may preclude someone from working due to an inability to concentrate, excessive fatigue or an inability to be around the public or co-workers due to a psychological problem.  A complete description of a person’s limitations provided by a treating physician is one of the strongest forms of evidence.