On January 18, 2017, the Social Security Administration issued new rules regarding the evaluation of medical evidence. These new rules eliminate the "treating physician rule": a doctrine that for many years has been a cornerstone of the Social Security Disability evaluation process. The new rules were supposed to become effective on March 27, 2017.
However, on January 20, 2017 the Trump administration issued a memorandum ordering a freeze of all regulations issued within 60 days of the inauguration. Furthermore, all agencies were ordered to postpone the effective date of the new regulations for at least 60 days from the date of the memorandum. It is not clear whether the new rules will be subject to any changes under the new administration.
The new new rules make the following changes to the evaluation of medical evidence:
- Adjudicators will give not special weight to opinions from treating sources. Instead, adjudicators will evaluate these opinions based on persuasiveness, consistency and supportability.
- Physicians Assistants (PA's) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN's) will now be considered acceptable medical sources.
- Adjudicators will no longer give special weight to decisions from other agencies, including the VA.
In general, these rules are bad news for claimants. Veterans will be particularly affected by the provisions that allow adjudicators to disregard VA disability determinations, including unemployability ratings. Trump promised over and over again during his campaign to take good care of veterans. I wonder whether his administration will step in and help veterans by amending the part of the rule that adversely affects them. There is still a lot to learn about these new regs. I will keep my readers updated. I also anticipate that these rules will be thoroughly discussed at the next NOSSCR conference this Spring in Washington D.C.