Social Security Ruling 06-03p has a lengthy title: Titles II and XVI: Considering Opinions and Other Evidence from Sources Who Are Not “Acceptable Medical Sources” in Disability Claims; Considering Decisions on Disability by Other Governmental and Nongovernmental Agencies.
The first part of the Ruling addresses evidence in a disability or SSI claim from sources who are not acceptable medical sources.
Acceptable medical sources are defined in the Ruling and by 20 C.F.R. 404.1513. Physicians (both M.D.s and D.O.s) are acceptable medical sources. Chiropractors, nurse practitioners, physicians' assistants are not. A licensed psychologist is an acceptable medical source. Licensed clinical social workers, counselors and therapists are not.
Evidence from an "acceptable medical source" is required to establish a medically determinable impairment. Only “acceptable medical sources” can give the SSA medical opinions. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1527(a)(2). Also, only “acceptable medical sources” can be considered treating sources, as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1502, whose medical opinions may be entitled to controlling weight. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1527(d)(2) and Social Security Ruling 96-2p.
So what does one do when the claimant is being treated by a "non-acceptable" medical source? I have many clients who receive most of their care from nurse practitioners or physicians' assistants. Some of these patients never see the actual doctor.
Evidence from these other sources must be considered. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1513(d). Ruling 06-03p states these opinions should be evaluated using the "Factors for Weighing Opinion Evidence" set forth in 404.1527(d)(2). In some circumstances, opinions from these sources can outweigh opinions from “acceptable medical sources.”
Information from these “other sources” cannot establish the existence of a medically determinable impairment, as discussed above. However, information from such “other sources” may provide insight into the severity of the the claimant's impairments and how they affect the claimant's ability to function.
From a disability lawyer's perspective, evidence "regarding the severity of the claimant's impairments and how they affect the claimant's ability to function" is exactly what you want the judge to consider. So the Ruling's recognition of the importance of opinion evidence from other sources is very helpful.
The second part of the Ruling addresses evidence from other agencies. The determination of disability is reserved to the Commissioner, and a disability determination by another agency is not binding upon the SSA. The Ruling puts it this way: "because other agencies may apply different rules and standards than we do for determining whether an individual is disabled, this may limit the relevance of a determination of disability made by another agency."
However, that other agency's determination will be considered by the SSA, and it is almost always beneficial to submit the determination into the record. Social Security will evaluate the medical evidence underlying the other decision in accordance with its usual rules for evaluating medical opinion evidence, and the ALJ should explain in the decision the consideration given to the determination of the other agency.
Social Security Rulings do not have the force of regulations, but they are binding on all components of the Social Security Administration, and are to be relied upon as precedents in adjudicating other cases. See 20 C.F.R. 402.35(b)(1). You can also read the Rulings – Preface page on the SSA website.