TN 4 (05-22)

DI 26515.001 Rationale Preparation


20 CFR 404.1529 and 416.929; Social Security Ruling (SSR) 16-3p 20 CFR 404.1527 and 416.927; 20 CFR 404.1520c and 416.920c; P.L. 104-121, Section 105 (Denial of Disability Benefits to Drug Addicts and Alcoholics); SSR 18-3p


A. Rationale Basics

Disability policy requires the Disability Determination Services (DDS) to provide complete documentation of the sequential evaluation process used in claims adjudication. The Disability Determination Explanation (DDE) can serve as the rationale; however the analysis in the DDE must include all of the required elements discussed in this section.

B. Required elements of the rationale

Include the following elements in all rationales, as applicable. Not every claim requires a discussion of all of the elements. For example, address Drug Addiction and Alcoholism (DAA) only if it is material to the allowance.

1. Citation of the sources of evidence

a. Individual medical source(s) reports

  • For individual medical evidence of record (MER) sources, cite the source’s name and date of receipt.

  • For consultative examination (CE) sources, cite the CE’s name and date of the examination.

b. Hospital(s), clinic(s), mental health center(s) reports

Cite name(s) and date(s) of receipts for each source.

c. Nonmedical source(s) reports

  • Cite nonmedical professional sources by name and date of receipt.

  • Cite other nonmedical source evidence generically, e.g., third party report received on MM/DD/YY.

2. Statement of allegations

  • State the claimant’s allegations (illnesses, injuries, and conditions), related limitations, and date of alleged onset.

  • Include allegations and limitations at time of filing and others identified or alleged during claim development.

3. Statement on substantial gainful activity (SGA)

State whether the claimant is working or not. If applicable, explain the field office’s (FO) resolution of the work issue(s), e.g., the work is SGA or is not.

4. Discuss other technical issues

Identify and discuss other technical issue(s), e.g., date last insured (DLI); unsuccessful work attempt (UWA); and, if applicable, explain the FO or DDS resolution.

5. Discuss findings of fact and analysis of the evidence

  • Discuss your analysis of the medical and nonmedical evidence, including objective medical evidence (signs, laboratory findings, or both) and evaluation of symptoms used to make the determination.

  • Make findings of fact; do not merely summarize evidence.

  • If applicable, consider and discuss the duration requirement.

  • If applicable, consider and discuss vocational issues.

  • State the established onset date (EOD) based on the claimant’s potential onset date (POD) provided by the FO. If the EOD differs from the alleged onset date (AOD), explain the reason(s) for the change. For more detailed information on documenting the EOD, see DI 25501.200C.2.

6. Discuss symptom evaluation

  • Discuss the claimant’s statements about his or her symptoms and their functional effects.

  • Assess the claimant’s statements and explain the reasons for your assessment and conclusion.

  • For more information on symptom evaluation, see DI 24501.021.

7. Discuss weight to give to medical opinion(s) for claims filed before March 27, 2017

  • Cite each medical opinion by the source name and date of receipt, and briefly describe the content of each medical opinion.

  • Assess and determine what weight to give the medical opinion(s). Discuss the reasons, including supporting evidence, for the weight given to each medical opinion.

  • Discuss whether any treating source(s)’ medical opinion(s) is entitled to controlling weight; explain why.

  • For information on weight of medical opinions, see DI 24503.035.

8. Discuss medical opinion(s) and prior administrative medical findings for claims filed on or after March 27, 2017

  • Cite each by source name and date, and briefly described the content of each.

  • For articulation requirements, see DI 24503.030.

  • For information on medical opinions, see DI 24503.025.

9. Discuss DAA

If you find the claimant to be disabled and there is evidence of DAA, determine and discuss whether DAA is material to the finding of disability.

For more information on DAA, see DI 90070.000.

10. Discuss a failure to follow prescribed treatment determination

If there is evidence that the claimant may not have followed prescribed treatment, discuss whether to preclude the claimant from benefits by making a failure to follow prescribed treatment determination.

For information on failure to follow prescribed treatment, see DI 23010.006 through DI 23010.045.

11. Discuss unsuccessful requests to the claimant for evidence or action and resulting determination

If a reasonable effort to ensure claimant cooperation with our requests for evidence or action are unsuccessful, discontinue development that requires claimant cooperation (e.g., consultative examinations and claimant forms completion).

For a discussion of what represents a “reasonable effort to ensure claimant cooperation,” see DI 23007.001 through DI 23007.010, DI 22510.016, DI 22510.019, and DI 22505.014.

After making every reasonable effort to obtain a complete medical history without the claimant’s cooperation, make a determination based on the evidence in the file. For the definition of "every reasonable effort" and a "complete medical history," see DI 22505.001.


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DI 26515.001 - Rationale Preparation - 05/06/2022
Batch run: 05/06/2022