How the Social Security Administration Evaluates Pain
Chronic pain – pain that you live with constantly or intense pain that you experience sporadically – can severely limit your capacity to work. However, getting the Social Security Administration to acknowledge that your pain is disabling can be a challenge because pain is largely subjective. Only you know how much pain you are feeling; your pain cannot be quantified with medical tests or instruments.
In determining whether chronic pain places a Social Security disability claimant “under a disability,” the Social Security Administration will consider the extent to which the alleged pain and the resulting restrictions and limitations can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the evidence in the case.
The Social Security Administration uses a two-part analysis: (1) First, the Social Security Administration reviews the objective medical evidence to confirm that you have a “medically determinable impairment” that could reasonably be expected to produce pain; then, (2) the Social Security Administration considers all the evidence in your file to evaluate the subjective nature of your pain – that is, the intensity and persistence of your pain and how it might limit your ability to function.
Part I: Does Objective Medical Evidence Reveal a Basis for Any Pain?
The Social Security Administration first reviews the objective medical evidence (that is, the “medical signs and laboratory findings, established by medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques”) to establish that you have a “medically determinable impairment” that could reasonably be expected to produce pain. In other words, have you been diagnosed with a condition that is expected to cause pain, and has that diagnosis been confirmed by some form of medical evidence (e.g., a physical examination, x-ray, EKG, blood test)? At this stage of the analysis, the question is whether the medically determinable impairment could cause any pain. If the answer is yes, the Social Security Administration then considers the second part of this analysis.
Part II: Does All the Evidence Support Your Claims Regarding the Intensity and Persistence of Your Pain and the Limiting Effect of Your Pain on Your Ability to Work?
If the objective medical evidence establishes that you have a condition that reasonably could be expected to cause any pain, the Social Security Administration will then evaluate the intensity and persistence of your pain to decide how your pain affects your ability to work. In this regard, the Social Security Administration will consider “all the available evidence.” This includes the objective medical evidence plus (1) your medical history; (2) statements from you, your treating doctor(s), and others regarding your daily activities, your medications, your treatment, what triggers your pain, what helps to alleviate the pain, and how the pain limits your ability to function; and (3) any other relevant information that your or anyone else submits to the Social Security Administration or that the Social Security Administration obtains.
Based on the information gathered from all these sources, the Social Security Administration will then determine whether the alleged pain-related limitations and restrictions on your ability to work are consistent with all the evidence. Any pain-related limitations and restrictions that are reasonably consistent with the evidence will be considered in determining whether you are “under a disability” and entitled to receive disability benefits.
An Experienced Disability Attorney Can Help
As real as your pain is to you, proving the disabling nature of that pain to the Social Security Administration can be an uphill battle. If you are not currently represented by a disability attorney and would like to discuss your case, please click here, then complete the form to your right.