How the Social Security Administration Evaluates "Pain" in Social Security Disability Claims

Submitted by Shane on Fri, 01/07/2011 - 12:12

When a person lives with chronic and severe pain, the burden can be overwhelming. Pain can prevent you from doing even the simplest of tasks, let alone maintaining the responsibilities of full-time employment. To make matters worse, chronic pain can lead to other issues, such as anxiety and depression. Many of the people who suffer from chronic and debilitating pain need Social Security Disability benefits just to make ends meet. The problem is, being able to prove the pain you are experiencing can be challenging, to say the least. Everyone experiences pain differently. How can you prove the extent of your pain? How can you prove the limitations that your chronic pain has placed on your life? Many people who suffer from pain are in desperate need of disability benefits. How does the Social Security Administration evaluate disability claims based on pain? Furthermore, how can an individual qualify for disability benefits due to the pain they are experiencing?

Pain, in and of itself, is not technically a disabling condition. Rather, it is a symptom of a condition that may indeed qualify you for disability. If you do not suffer from a condition that is listed in the Social Security Administration's published listing of impairments, you may still be able to qualify for disability benefits, but you will need to have medical evidence showing that your pain is preventing you from being able to perform substantial gainful work activity. There are a few ways in which you can do this.

Proving The Extent of Your Pain to the Social Security Administration

When filing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits due to pain, the Social Security Administration will ask you to fill out a pain questionnaire. This questionnaire will ask for information about the severity of your pain, where the pain is located, how frequently you feel the pain and what limitations the pain places on your daily activities. They will also want to know what you are doing to help control the pain and how well the treatments work to manage your condition (if the treatments are able to help at all).

Simply stating that you are suffering from severe pain is not enough to qualify you for Social Security Disability. You will need to have medical proof of the pain, such as x-rays, blood tests, CAT scans and MRI tests. If there is no clinical evidence to support your disability claim, you will not be able to qualify for benefits.

The Chances of Getting a Disability Approval Based on Pain

The Social Security Administration rejects almost three-fourths of initial Social Security Disability applications received each year. If you are submitting a claim for benefits due to pain, the chances of being approved at the initial stage of the application process are relatively slim. That does not mean, however, that you will not be able to receive the benefits you need. What you will need to do is file a disability appeal in order to have your case heard before an Administrative Law Judge. Disability claims based on pain can be hard to prove, but your chances of being approved are at their highest during the hearing stage of the disability appeal process.

The Weight of Testimony in a Disability Case

If you can prove that you have a disabling medical condition that could be reasonably expected to result in severe and debilitating pain, but you do not have enough medical evidence to prove that the pain prevents you from performing any type of work, the Administrative Law Judge hearing your disability case will need to consider your testimony regarding your pain. In addition to your own testimony, the judge will consider other subjective evidence, such as statements from your treating physicians and records of the pain medications that you are taking. Side effects of those medications will also be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to overturn the SSA's decision to deny your Social Security Disability benefits.

If enough evidence was not provided with your initial claim for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration may have requested that you go for a consultative exam during the earlier stage of the application process. The results of that exam will also be considered by the judge who is hearing your disability appeal hearing.

Seeking the Help of a Disability Attorney

Proving the severity of one's pain and how that pain prevents an individual from performing work activity can be extremely difficult. Because of this, it is extremely important to work with a Social Security Disability attorney when trying to obtain Social Security Disability benefits due to pain. A qualified disability lawyer will know how to gather the evidence necessary to prove your case and will be able to guide you through the disability appeals process. Your attorney will also prepare you for your hearing and will represent you when you appear before the Administrative Law Judge. Statistics show that applicants who obtain legal representation during the appeal process are more likely to receive benefits than applicants who try to represent themselves. This is especially true for individuals who are applying for benefits due to severe and disabling pain.

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