To qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD), the Social Security Administration (SSA) must find that a claimant has a severe, medically determinable physical or mental impairment. By its very nature, pain is subjective, which makes a claim for SSD based on chronic pain difficult to establish.
Pain and the Inability to Work
Pain often accompanies many medical conditions and may persist even after the underlying condition is treated. A disability lawyer needs to consider that pain that is severe, persistent and long term, which cannot be treated by standard medical treatment, is chronic pain. This must be taken into consideration as part of the claimant’s case.
The SSA will not make a determination of disability on symptoms alone; that is, the claimant cannot merely state that he or she is in constant pain and expect to be approved. For the SSA to even consider pain as a disabling condition, there must be lab tests, x-rays and the results of physical exams and other tests that indicate there is some physical or mental impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce the reported pain.
Listing of Impairments
The SSA has created a list to assist SSD examiners in determining if a claimant’s impairments fit SSA’s definition of total disability. Although pain is not a listed condition, the presence of pain is an important factor in several disabling conditions that are listed. Some of the conditions include:
- inflammatory arthritis;
- neurological disorders;
- somatoform disorders;
- back injury;
- chronic renal disease; and
- inflammatory bowel disease.
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment
A residual functional capacity assessment assists the SSA in determining what type of activities a disability claimant can perform in consideration of his or her medical conditions. It is an unfortunate fact that the examiners for an RFC assessment often seem less than open to the consideration of pain. However, this issue has been the subject of federal court cases and the holdings of those cases mandate that SSA must evaluate the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of pain on the claimant’s ability to perform basic work tasks.
Limitations on Daily Activities
Part of the SSA’s evaluation of a claimant’s disability application focuses on the person’s activities of daily life. It is important that the claimant communicate in precise terms how, for example, that although the individual may be able to perform a certain function, it takes three times as long because of the necessity to rest often to alleviate the pain.
One factor is the regularity and consistency of treatment. An examiner will be more likely to believe chronic pain is an issue if the claimant has a medical history reflecting ongoing medical care.
Contact a Disability Attorney for Legal Advice
There are many medical impairments for which the SSA routinely denies disability benefits. If you have been turned down, you need to explore your options. Call Chris Pashler or Kathleen Devereaux, Buffalo social security disability lawyers, at 716-874-1739.