§ 404.1615. Making disability determinations.

(a) When making a disability determination, the State agency will apply subpart P, part 404, of our regulations.

(b) The State agency will make disability determinations based only on the medical and nonmedical evidence in its files.

(c) Disability determinations will be made by:

(1) A State agency medical or psychological consultant and a State agency disability examiner;

(2) A State agency disability examiner alone when there is no medical evidence to be evaluated (i.e., no medical evidence exists or we are unable, despite making every reasonable effort, to obtain any medical evidence that may exist) and the individual fails or refuses, without a good reason, to attend a consultative examination (see § 404.1518);

(3) A State agency disability examiner alone if the claim is adjudicated under the quick disability determination process (see § 404.1619) or the compassionate allowance process (see § 404.1602), and the initial or reconsidered determination is fully favorable to you. This paragraph will no longer be effective on November 11, 2016 unless we terminate it earlier or extend it beyond that date by publication of a final rule in the Federal Register; or

(4) A State agency disability hearing officer.

See § 404.1616 for the definition of medical or psychological consultant and § 404.915 for the definition of disability hearing officer. The State agency disability examiner and disability hearing officer must be qualified to interpret and evaluate medical reports and other evidence relating to the claimant's physical or mental impairments and as necessary to determine the capacities of the claimant to perform substantial gainful activity.

See § 404.1572 for what we mean by substantial gainful activity.

(d) An initial determination by the State agency that an individual is not disabled, in any case where there is evidence which indicates the existence of a mental impairment, will be made only after every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist has completed the medical portion of the case review and any applicable residual functional capacity assessment. (See § 404.1616 for the qualifications we consider necessary for a psychologist to be a psychological consultant and § 404.1617 for what we mean by “reasonable effort”.) If the services of qualified psychiatrists or psychologists cannot be obtained because of impediments at the State level, the Commissioner may contract directly for the services. In a case where there is evidence of mental and nonmental impairments and a qualified psychologist serves as a psychological consultant, the psychologist will evaluate only the mental impairment, and a physician will evaluate the nonmental impairment.

(e) The State agency will certify each determination of disability to us on forms we provide.

(f) The State agency will furnish us with all the evidence it considered in making its determination.

(g) The State agency will not be responsible for defending in court any determination made, or any procedure for making determinations, under these regulations.

[52 FR 33926, Sept. 9, 1987, as amended at 56 FR 11018, Mar. 14, 1991; 61 FR 11135, Mar. 19, 1996; 62 FR 38452, July 18, 1997; 65 FR 34958, June 1, 2000; 75 FR 62682, Oct. 13, 2010; 78 FR 66639, Nov. 6, 2013; 79 FR 51243, Aug. 28, 2014; 80 FR 63093, Oct. 19, 2015]