What is an ‘Acceptable Medical Source’?

Submitted by Elizabeth on

Medical evidence plays a critical role in an application for disability benefits. When evaluating whether an applicant is eligible for benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will account for whether the evidence an applicant has provided comes from their list of Acceptable Medical Sources (AMS). This guide explains what an AMS is, whether the SSA will accept evidence that comes from a source other than an AMS, and why including medical evidence with your disability claim is vital. 

What Is an Acceptable Medical Source (AMS)? 

The SSA considers an AMS to be a source with the necessary qualifications or credentials to provide the type of medical evidence needed to support a disability claim. Specific examples of an AMS include: 

  • Licensed physicians
  • Independently practicing psychologists who’ve earned licenses or certifications
  • School psychologists or certified professionals who serve similar functions
  • Licensed optometrists
  • Licensed podiatrists
  • Certain speech-language pathologists
  • Licensed audiologists
  • Licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) 

Be aware that a professional that the SSA may consider to be an Acceptable Medical Source (AMS) in one circumstance, may not qualify as an AMS in another. For example, generally, the SSA will only consider an optometrist to be an AMS when providing evidence of visual impairments to support a disability application for vision loss or other vision-related conditions. However, an optometrist would not qualify as an AMS that could provide evidence of, for instance, chronic back pain. 

Does The SSA Accept Evidence That Is Not From An AMS?  

Providing evidence from an AMS when submitting a Social Security disability application is essential. However, once the SSA has determined that an applicant has provided such evidence, they may also accept evidence from other sources. Potential examples include (but aren’t necessarily limited to): 

  • Chiropractors
  • Naturopaths
  • Teachers and other educational personnel
  • Social welfare agency personnel
  • Relatives 

Why Do I Need Medical Evidence?  

Not everyone who applies for disability benefits is eligible to receive them. Benefits are only available to those whose conditions are serious enough to prevent them from working and earning a certain minimum income for an extended period of time. 

Determining whether a disability is severe enough to genuinely prevent an individual from working isn’t necessarily easy. Thus, the SSA needs to review substantial medical evidence to make an accurate decision when choosing whether to approve or deny an application. 

One way to begin determining if you may be eligible for benefits is to consult the SSA’s Blue Book. This resource provides a list of impairments that may meet the SSA’s criteria for disabilities. Check it to see if there is a listing for your condition. 

Get Help With Your Disability Claim 

Gathering useful evidence from an Acceptable Medical Source (AMS) to strengthen a disability claim can be a complex process. Fortunately, this isn’t a task you need to handle on your own. 

Consider enlisting the help of a disability lawyer. A legal professional with experience handling cases such as yours may know what type of evidence the SSA looks for and how to collect it. For more information about what a lawyer can do for you, complete the Free Case Evaluation form on this page to get connected and speak with a disability attorney today—at zero cost to you. 

Additional Resources 

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