Certain findings in a Social Security disability case are reserved to the Commissioner. Particularly, the determination of whether or not your are disabled is reserved to the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1520b(c)(3). Therefore, your doctor’s opinion that you are disabled in given no special significance by the SSA.
In fact, the heading for this section of the regulations is “Evidence that is inherently neither valuable nor persuasive.” That is an emphatic statement!
Section (3) of 20 C.F.R. 404.1520b(c) gives a list of statements on issues that are reserved to the Commissioner:
(i) Statements that you are or are not disabled, blind, able to work, or able to perform regular or continuing work;
(ii) Statements about whether or not you have a severe impairment(s);
(iii) Statements about whether or not your impairment(s) meets the duration requirement (see § 404.1509);
(iv) Statements about whether or not your impairment(s) meets or medically equals any listing in the Listing of Impairments in Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1;
(v) Statements about what your residual functional capacity is using our programmatic terms about the functional exertional levels in Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, Rule 200.00 instead of descriptions about your functional abilities and limitations (see § 404.1545);
(vi) Statements about whether or not your residual functional capacity prevents you from doing past relevant work (see § 404.1560);
(vii) Statements that you do or do not meet the requirements of a medical-vocational rule in Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2; and
(viii) Statements about whether or not your disability continues or ends when we conduct a continuing disability review (see § 404.1594).
These statements, if adopted, would tend to direct the determination of disability, and must therefore be made by the SSA.
In practice, however, it is terribly frustrating to have a treating doctor’s opinion dismissed by a DDS examiner or an ALJ because the issue is reserved to the Commissioner. The solution to this problem is to ask your treating doctor for specific opinions regarding the nature and severity of your functional impairments. Your doctor’s opinion regarding your diagnosis and functional limitations will be considered by Social Security.