I Have Chronic Pain, Can I get Disability?
If you suffer from chronic pain you understand just how variable the condition can be. For some the pain is continuous, for others it is intermittent, some suffer terribly while others live with less severe pain. Chronic pain is broadly defined as pain that cannot be eliminated by standard medical treatment, pain that persists after an injury or illness has resolved, or pain for which no origin can be determined.
Though the suffering is real, many with the disorder have trouble convincing the Social Security Administration that their pain prevents them from working. The difficulty of quantifying pain presents unique difficulties for those with chronic pain seeking to receive disability benefits. Given this, it is important to note that simply telling the SSA that you have disabling chronic pain is not enough, it must be clearly demonstrated through testimony and medical evidence.
It may surprise some to know that chronic pain is not a listed disorder in Social Security’s listing of impairments that may automatically qualify you for disability benefits. This does not mean that hope is lost, as there are many other diagnoses that are often related to chronic pain, including:
• inflammatory arthritis;
• somatoform disorders;
• back injury;
• chronic renal disease; and
• inflammatory bowel disease.
If you do not qualify under another a listing category, then you will have to qualify for disability benefits through a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) assessment. An RFC assessment mean that the process for deciding whether disability benefits will be awarded boils down to two important questions:
1) Do you have objective evidence that demonstrates a medically determinable impairment that could reasonably be the source of your pain?
2) If you are able to demonstrate such an impairment, how intense and persistent is the pain and how does it limit your ability to perform basic work activities?
For an impairment to be “medically determinable” it must be an anatomical, physiological or psychological abnormality that can be shown through clear evidence from reliable medical sources. Such sources include testimony from doctors, medical records and lab results. Without these tangible sources, your testimony alone will not be enough to prove your disability before the SSA.
When determining the level of pain, the SSA evaluates both the intensity of the pain and how the pain affects the individual’s ability to do basic work activities. An individual’s statements are important here as the SSA knows that some pain is more severe than can be demonstrated through medical evidence alone. Testimony describing the pain and how it impacts your daily life is considered with the rest of the relevant evidence in the case record when making a decision.
The SSA also considers the following factors when assessing your pain:
• The location, duration, frequency and intensity of the individual’s pain;
• The type, dosage, effectiveness and side effects of any medication the individual takes or has taken to alleviate pain;
• Treatment, other than medication, the individual receives or has received for relief of pain;
• Any measures, other than treatment, the individual uses or has used to relieve pain.
If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Nationwide Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.