(a) What we mean by evidence. Subject to the provisions of paragraph (b), evidence is anything you or anyone else submits to us or that we obtain that relates to your claim. We consider evidence under §§ 404.1520b, 404.1520c (or under § 404.1527 for claims filed (see § 404.614) before March 27, 2017). We evaluate evidence we receive according to the rules pertaining to the relevant category of evidence. The categories of evidence are:
(1) Objective medical evidence. Objective medical evidence is medical signs, laboratory findings, or both, as defined in § 404.1502(f).
(2) Medical opinion. A medical opinion is a statement from a medical source about what you can still do despite your impairment(s) and whether you have one or more impairment-related limitations or restrictions in the following abilities: (For claims filed (see § 404.614) before March 27, 2017, see § 404.1527(a) for the definition of medical opinion.)
(i) Your ability to perform physical demands of work activities, such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, or other physical functions (including manipulative or postural functions, such as reaching, handling, stooping, or crouching);
(ii) Your ability to perform mental demands of work activities, such as understanding; remembering; maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; carrying out instructions; or responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, or work pressures in a work setting;
(iii) Your ability to perform other demands of work, such as seeing, hearing, or using other senses; and
(iv) Your ability to adapt to environmental conditions, such as temperature extremes or fumes.
(3) Other medical evidence. Other medical evidence is evidence from a medical source that is not objective medical evidence or a medical opinion, including judgments about the nature and severity of your impairments, your medical history, clinical findings, diagnosis, treatment prescribed with response, or prognosis. (For claims filed (see § 404.614) before March 27, 2017, other medical evidence does not include a diagnosis, prognosis, or a statement that reflects a judgment(s) about the nature and severity of your impairment(s)).
(4) Evidence from nonmedical sources. Evidence from nonmedical sources is any information or statement(s) from a nonmedical source (including you) about any issue in your claim. We may receive evidence from nonmedical sources either directly from the nonmedical source or indirectly, such as from forms we receive and our administrative records.
(5) Prior administrative medical finding. A prior administrative medical finding is a finding, other than the ultimate determination about whether you are disabled, about a medical issue made by our Federal and State agency medical and psychological consultants at a prior level of review (see § 404.900) in your current claim based on their review of the evidence in your case record, such as:
(i) The existence and severity of your impairment(s);
(ii) The existence and severity of your symptoms;
(iii) Statements about whether your impairment(s) meets or medically equals any listing in the Listing of Impairments in Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1;
(iv) Your residual functional capacity;
(v) Whether your impairment(s) meets the duration requirement; and
(vi) How failure to follow prescribed treatment (see § 404.1530) and drug addiction and alcoholism (see § 404.1535) relate to your claim.
(b) Exceptions for privileged communications.
(1) The privileged communications listed in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (b)(1)(ii) of this section are not evidence, and we will neither consider nor provide any analysis about them in your determination or decision. This exception for privileged communications applies equally whether your representative is an attorney or a non-attorney.
(i) Oral or written communications between you and your representative that are subject to the attorney-client privilege, unless you voluntarily disclose the communication to us.
(ii) Your representative's analysis of your claim, unless he or she voluntarily discloses it to us. This analysis means information that is subject to the attorney work product doctrine, but it does not include medical evidence, medical opinions, or any other factual matter that we may consider in determining whether or not you are entitled to benefits (see paragraph (b)(2) of this section).
(2) The attorney-client privilege generally protects confidential communications between an attorney and his or her client that are related to providing or obtaining legal advice. The attorney work product doctrine generally protects an attorney's analyses, theories, mental impressions, and notes. In the context of your disability claim, neither the attorney-client privilege nor the attorney work product doctrine allow you to withhold factual information, medical opinions, or other medical evidence that we may consider in determining whether or not you are entitled to benefits. For example, if you tell your representative about the medical sources you have seen, your representative cannot refuse to disclose the identity of those medical sources to us based on the attorney-client privilege. As another example, if your representative asks a medical source to complete an opinion form related to your impairment(s), symptoms, or limitations, your representative cannot withhold the completed opinion form from us based on the attorney work product doctrine. The attorney work product doctrine would not protect the source's opinions on the completed form, regardless of whether or not your representative used the form in his or her analysis of your claim or made handwritten notes on the face of the report.
[82 FR 5865, Jan. 18, 2017; 82 FR 15132, Mar. 27, 2017]