Assessment and proof of pain in an Atlanta Social Security disability case
Experienced Social Security disability attorneys will tell you that pain sometimes presents extra proof challenges.
Why is that? Some judges erroneously approach a disability evaluation as if it primarily involved assessing objective evidence. Pain is not always accompanied by objective medical evidence.
Sometimes reduced joint motion, muscle spasm, sensory or motor disruption, or other evidence exists, but frequently it does not. Fortunately, the Social Security Act and regulations require only that objective medical evidence show that the claimant’s impairment could cause the sort of symptom alleged by the claimant. Although SSA regulations require that a claimant’s limitations be consistent with objective medical evidence, they also require consistency with all other evidence in the record. Thus, the importance of objective medical evidence is not elevated above the importance of other evidence in the record.
The Social Security Administration’s regulations require that a claimant’s statements about symptoms not be rejected solely because objective evidence does not substantiate them. The symptom regulation is summarized in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(a) as follows:
(a) General. In determining whether you are disabled, we consider all your symptoms, including pain, and the extent to which your symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence. By objective medical evidence, we mean medical signs and laboratory findings as defined in § 404.1528 (b) and (c). By other evidence, we mean the kinds of evidence described in §§ 404.1512(b)(2) through (6) and 404.1513(b)(1), (4), and (5), and (d). These include statements or reports from you, your treating or nontreating source, and others about your medical history, diagnosis, prescribed treatment, daily activities, efforts to work, and any other evidence showing how your impairment(s) and any related symptoms affect your ability to work. We will consider all of your statements about your symptoms, such as pain, and any description you, your treating source or nontreating source, or other persons may provide about how the symptoms affect your activities of daily living and your ability to work. However, statements about your pain or other symptoms will not alone establish that you are disabled; there must be medical signs and laboratory findings which show that you have a medical impairment(s) which could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or other symptoms alleged and which, when considered with all of the other evidence (including statements about the intensity and persistence of your pain or other symptoms which may reasonably be accepted as consistent with the medical signs and laboratory findings), would lead to a conclusion that you are disabled. In evaluating the intensity and persistence of your symptoms, including pain, we will consider all of the available evidence, including your medical history, the medical signs and laboratory findings and statements about how your symptoms affect you. (Section 404.1527 explains how we consider opinions of your treating source and other medical opinions on the existence and severity of your symptoms, such as pain.) We will then determine the extent to which your alleged functional limitations and restrictions due to pain or other symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the medical signs and laboratory findings and other evidence to decide how your symptoms affect your ability to work.
Assessment of your pain
The Social Security Administration’s pain regulation contains this list of factors that will be considered when it evaluates your pain:
- Your daily activities
- The location, duration, frequency, and intensity of your pain or other symptoms
- Precipitating and aggravating factors
- The type, dosage, effectiveness and side effects of any medication you take or have taken to alleviate your pain or other symptoms
- Treatment, other than medication, you receive or have received for relief of your pain or other symptoms
- Any measures you use or have used to relieve your pain or other symptoms (e.g., lying flat on your back, standing for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, sleeping on a board, etc.) and
- Other factors concerning your functional limitations and restrictions due to pain or other symptoms.
Evidence of your pain
We will use a variety of evidence to prove your pain, including your medical reports, the results of your treatment, medical opinion forms, your daily activity reports, witness testimony, attempts to work, any work evaluations, your living arrangements, and more.
At your hearing, we will ask you to describe your pain in detail, list the medication you take for it, any treatment other than medication that you receive, your daily activities, and the restriction in your function caused by your pain.
If pain is limiting your ability to work, consider obtaining an evaluation of your eligibility for Social Security disability. You may use the form to your right or contact us at:
Charles Martin & Joseph Jones
Atlanta Georgia Social Security disability attorneys
123 N. McDonough St.
Decatur, Georgia 30030