TN 25 (01-24)

DI 24501.002 Introduction to Medical Evaluation

A. Policy for medical evaluation

The medical evaluation is the agency explanation of the medical determination.

Every disability determination must contain a medical evaluation unless the case contains no medical evidence or collateral estoppel applies.

For more information on when collateral estoppel applies, see DI 27515.001.

The medical evaluation must address the alleged and discovered impairments for the full assessment period on one or more medical assessment forms.

B. Requirements for medical evaluation

1. Period covered

The medical evaluation should cover the time from potential onset date (POD) through the date of adjudication.

a. Exceptions to evaluating from the POD to the date of adjudication

  1. 1. 

    Unfavorable cases—entitlement period ended in the past

    In the instances listed if the determination is unfavorable, the period assessed ends at the date the entitlement ended.

    • A denial with date last insured (DLI) in the past for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) claims.

    • A denial with prescribed period (PP) that ended in the past for Disabled Widow(er) Benefit (DWB) claims.

    • A denial in which Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB) claimant filed after age 22 or a re-entitlement claim with a re-entitlement period that ended in the past.

    For more information about period adjudicated see DI 27510.001B.

    EXAMPLE: The claimant’s DLI was 12/31/2016. The POD is 1/1/2016. The claimant alleged fatigue due to the early stages of renal failure beginning 1/1/2016. They did not begin chronic dialysis until 6/1/2017. The impairment did not meet or equal a listing until that time and the claimant was a younger individual with a college education who was capable of performing past relevant work at their DLI of 12/31/2016. Because the determination is unfavorable, the medical evaluation will be through the DLI of 12/31/2016. The period adjudicated is through 12/31/2016.

    IMPORTANT: A favorable determination for a claimant with an entitlement period that ended in the past requires a medical evaluation from the POD to the date of adjudication unless the Disability Determination Services (DDS) is finding a closed period of disability.

  2. 2. 

    Closed period cases

    For a closed period case, the medical evaluation must be from the POD until the date the period of disability ended.

    The DDS must find medical improvement (MI) related to the ability to work or a Group I or Group II exception to finding MI in order to close a period of disability.

    For more information about the medical improvement review standard, see DI 28005.001.

    Although the medical evaluation is from the POD until the date the period of disability ended, the period adjudicated for a closed period case is through the date of the determination or decision.

    For more information see:

    • DI 27510.001 Period Covered by a Final Determination or Decision: “Period Adjudicated”

    • DI 25510.001 Closed Periods of Disability

    EXAMPLE: The claimant is awarded a closed period of disability from 1/1/2015 to 6/1/2016. The DDS awards the closed period on 9/1/2016. The claimant files a new claim in January 2017 alleging an onset of 6/1/2016. The earliest onset the DDS can consider without reopening is 9/2/2016 the day after they awarded the closed period of disability.

  3. 3. 

    Duration Issues

    For cases in which the claimant has not met the duration requirements for disability at the time of the determination, the DDS may need a medical evaluation that projects severity past the date of adjudication to address the duration issue. For these cases, the period adjudicated is through the date of the determination.

    For additional information, see

    • DI 25505.025 Duration Requirement for Disability

    • DI 25505.030 Evaluation of the Duration Requirement for Disability

    EXAMPLE: The claimant alleges disability due to a fracture of the femur, which occurred 1/1/2017. The DDS adjudicates the case on 6/1/2017. To address the duration issue, the DDS must project the medical evaluation through the 12 month duration period, which ends 12/31/2017. The period adjudicated will be through the date of the determination, 6/1/2017.

b. More than one assessment needed

In some cases, the DDS may need to make more than one assessment to reflect varying levels of severity throughout the period covered.

EXAMPLE: From the POD of 10/1/2016 to the established onset date (EOD) of 12/1/2016, the claimant had a medium residual functional capacity (RFC) due to poorly controlled blood pressure and reduced renal function. On 12/1/2016, the claimant had a stroke. By March 2017, the claimant’s right lower extremity had 4/5 strength. The claimant required a hand held assistive device to walk for even short distances. Based on the objective medical and clinical findings, a sedentary RFC applied from 12/1/2016 to the date of adjudication.

Claims requiring multiple evaluations typically involve a material change in the claimant’s medical condition during the period adjudicated. For example:

  • Severity lessens materially over the period evaluated;

  • Severity worsens materially over the period evaluated; or

  • Successive unrelated impairments.

IMPORTANT: In initial claims, never combine successive, unrelated severe impairments each lasting less than 12 months to meet the 12 month duration period, see DI 25505.030.

C. Issues addressed

The medical evaluation is the agency explanation of the medical determination.

1. Medical evaluation(s) must:

  • Address all allegation(s);

  • Address all medically determinable impairments (MDI);

  • Discuss signs and laboratory findings; and

  • Contain an analysis of the medical evidence and how it was used in the evaluation

2. If applicable, discuss:

REMINDER: The DDS Disability Examiner (DE) may process a fully favorable allowance determination without addressing all of these issues. For more information on curtailing development in fully favorable claims, see DI 24515.020.

D. Documenting the medical evaluation

Complete the medical evaluation on SSA-approved medical assessment form(s).

The DDS DE, including medical consultants (MC) and psychological consultants (PC), complete medical assessment forms in the Disability Case Processing System (DCPS).

For guidance on completing medical assessment forms see the current "Claims Analysis" functionality guide.

1. SSA-approved medical assessment forms

  • SSA-2506-BK (Psychiatric Review Technique)

  • SSA-4734-BK (Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment)

  • SSA-4734-F4-SUP (Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment)

  • SSA-538 (Childhood Disability Evaluation Form)

  • SSA-416 (Medical Evaluation)

2. Signature Requirements

The proper individual with an acceptable physical signature or an SSA-approved electronic signature must sign each medical assessment form. Only an MC/PC may sign medical assessment forms.

See Also:

  • DI 24501.001 The Disability Determination Services (DDS) Disability Examiner (DE), Medical Consultant (MC), and Psychological Consultant (PC) Team, and the Role of the Medical Advisor (MA)

  • DI 26510.090 Completing SSA-831(Disability Determination and Transmittal) Signature Information, Items 30-33

  • DI 24510.066 Options to Simplify Case Processing

3. Medical assessment form(s) retention

Never remove any medical assessment form(s) from previous levels of adjudication.

a. Retain in file

Retain any medical assessment(s) in the file that:

  • Completes the medical portion of the claim, or

  • Supports the determination.

b. Discard at case closure

Move other medical assessments that do not reflect the final determination (i.e., partial or preliminary forms) to the temporary (green) section of the certified electronic (CEF) or paper folder.

The system automatically discards all material from the green section after all quality reviews are complete.

The office taking the last action for a paper folder will discard all material marked as nonessential.

c. Correcting forms

Cases involving federal quality assurance review may require the creation of corrected medical assessment forms.

For details on correcting forms, see GN 04440.232.

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DI 24501.002 - Introduction to Medical Evaluation - 01/04/2024
Batch run: 01/04/2024