Pain as a Basis for Disability Claim

When we ask people what stops them from working, the most common reason is pain. As anyone who has experienced it knows, acute pain takes over every corner of your life, hindering physical ability, interfering with concentration and stamina, and causing fatigue. Many people with conditions as diverse as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Fibromylagia, migraines and lumbar disc disease are in this situation.

For Social Security disability and SSI claims, documenting and proving the severity and impact of pain is often the most critical element in winning a case. As common as pain is as a symptom, it cannot be objectively measured. It can be very difficult to convince Social Security that a claimant is disabled on this basis alone. However, Social Security has a rule (https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/rulings/di/01/SSR2016-03-di-01.html) which sets standards that decision-makers must follow when a claimant tells them that pain is a factor in disability.

In determining credibility, the adjudicator must consider the entire case record, including the objective medical evidence, the claimant’s own statements about symptoms, statements and other information provided by treating or examining physicians or psychologists and other persons about the symptoms and how they affect the individual, and any other relevant evidence in the case record. An individual’s statements about the intensity and persistence of pain or other symptoms or about the effect the symptoms have on his or her ability to work may not be disregarded solely because they are not substantiated by objective medical evidence.

The rule cautions that before any complaints of pain can be considered there must be an underlying condition — medical signs and laboratory findings establishing that the person has a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment” which could be expected to cause some degree of the pain. Chronic pain of unknown origin simply cannot be the basis for a disability finding. Next comes showing that the pain interferes with activity so much that it would be impossible to work 40 steady, predictable hours per week. Let us help document these steps for you.

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