Social Security Administrative Law Judges Cannot Rely on Opinions of Single Decision Makers to Grant or Deny Social Security Benefits
In a memorandum to all Regional Chief Administrative Law Judges, Acting Associate Chief Administrative Law Judge John P. Costello stated that findings made by Single Decision Makers (SDMs) for the Social Security Administration are NOT opinion evidence and therefore cannot be considered by an Administrative Law Judge when making a disability determination.
Ordinarily, an initial disability determination is made by a State agency disability examiner and a medical consultant or psychological consultant. However, under test modifications to the disability determination process, a SDM may make disability determinations alone, without the opinion of a medical or psychological consultant. SDMs, in making their own determinations, may consult with a medical or psychological consultant but are not required. Likewise, a medical or psychological consultant is not required to sign off on the determination of the SDM. SDMs, who do not have medical training, are then allowed to make all determinations of fact for the disability case at hand.
In his memorandum, Acting Associate Chief Administrative Law Judge Costello clarified that the opinions of SDMs are neither medical opinion evidence nor opinions of non-medical sources. Administrative Law Judges, when making their determination to approve or deny a Social Security disability case, should not consider or address the opinions of SDMs in their decisions. Administrative Law Judges are "ultimately" responsible for checking signature lines so as to ensure that a decision does not erroneously include an evaluation of an SDM finding.
For help navigating the Social Security disability process, contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney at Gardberg & Kemmerly P.C. today at 251-343-1111 for a free case evaluation. Gardberg & Kemmerly P.C. represents Social Security disability claimants in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana at all levels of the disability process from initial application to appeals to Federal Court.