Idaho Disability Lawyers

Understanding Disability–Process Unification Rulings

boise-social-security-attorney-Couple-300x199In 1996, Social Security came out with several rulings that were designed to produce more uniform decisions across the nation. The Process Unification Rulings have helped many claimants because they have given your Boise disability attorney specific standards for determining the effect of physical limitations. Because they are typically so clear and so straightforward in their mandates, it is hard for Social Security decision makers to ignore these disability rulings.

The following rulings are the primary components of this unification process:

SSR 96-1p–Application by the Social Security Administration (SSA) of Federal Circuit Court and District Court Decisions.

  1. SSR 96-2p–Giving Controlling Weight to Treating Source Medical Opinions
  2. SSR 96-3p–Considering Allegations of Pain and Other Symptoms in Determining Whether a Medically Determinable Impairment Is Severe
  3. SSR 96-4p–Symptoms, Medically Determinable Physical and Mental Impairments, and Exertional and Nonexertional Limitations
  4. SSR 96-5p–Medical Source Opinions on Issues Reserved to the Commissioner
  5. SSR 96-6p–Consideration of Administrative Findings of Fact by State Agency Medical and Psychological Consultants and Other Program Physicians and Psychologists at the Administrative Law Judge and Appeals Council Levels of Administrative Review; Medical Equivalence
  6. SSR 96-7p–Evaluation of Symptoms in Disability Claims: Assessing the Credibility of an Individual’s Statements
  7. SSR 96-8p–Assessing Residual Functional Capacity in Initial Claims
  8. SSR 96-9p–Determining Capability to Do Other Work–Implications of a Residual Functional Capacity for Less Than a Full Range of Sedentary Work

In subsequent articles, we will go over each of these rulings and what they mean to your Social Security disability application.  You attorney can also help answer any questions you may have.

Disability Attorney Boise

Disability Attorney Boise

The first ruling, SSR 96-1p, is a fairly technical ruling, which your disability attorney will appreciate, but may not mean a great deal to you.  SSR 96-1p states how Social Security decision makers are do take into account interpretations of law and policy by federal court decisions.   Essentially, SSR 96-1p simply reaffirms Social Securities’ longstanding disability policy that unless a Social Security Acquiescence Ruling (AR) is issued stating the conflict between federal circuit court holdings and Social Security’s interpretation of the Social Security Act or regulations, Social Security decision makers must continue to follow Social Security’s nationwide policies when deciding cases and not the court holding.

SSA acquiesces only in decisions of the Federal circuit courts, and not in decisions of Federal district courts within a circuit. This policy is set forth in 20 C.F.R. 404.985 and 416.1485. There is a common misconception about these code sections and about SSR 96-1p. Some disability attorneys and a surprising number of judges think that nonacquiecense applies to all court cases for which the agency has not issued an AR. A disability attorney or adjudicator may believe that disability decision makers can not apply the holding in any court decision which is not accompanied by an AR.

This is incorrect. If there is no conflict between SSA policy and precedent, SSA considers itself bound to follow court precedent. In practice, your disability attorney should point out that absent a statement from SSA that a district holding conflicts with SSA’s nationwide policy (unless a conflict is obvious from the holding), the absence of a conflict should be presumed.

Articles on the remaining 96’ rulings will be added to our website as they become available.  Please contact our office and speak with a Boise disability attorney if you have any questions.


Originally posted 2014-03-15 21:13:18.