September 10, 2012

Does The Social Security Administration Consider How Much Pain I Experience?

Yes, the Social Security Administration is supposed to consider your pain when deciding if you are disabled.  The pain you experience from standing, walking, pushing, pulling, lifting, and sitting may make it difficult, if not impossible, to perform substantial gainful activity.  Many of my clients are not able to focus or concentrate long enough to work because the pain is so severe.  If you do experience pain, it is important to regularly report the frequency and intensity of your pain to your physician.  The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may be skeptical about your complaints of pain if your medical records do not show that you have talked to your doctors about them.

Some of my clients suffering from physical disabilities tell me the pain they experience is simply too much to bear. They often enter an Indiana Social Security disability hearing prepared to let the ALJ know exactly what the pain is like on a day to day basis. As an attorney, I give my clients guidelines to help them explain their pain to the judge, and I urge them to be as truthful and straightforward as possible. Most of my clients listen to my advice, but sometimes, clients go into the courtroom and exaggerate their pain symptoms to an unbelievable degree.

Being honest about everything at your disability appeal hearing is very important, from explaining what you are physically able to do to describing the pain you experience. In most hearings, the judge or I ask the claimant to rate his pain on a scale from zero to ten, where a rating of zero is no pain, and a rating of ten is pain so severe that you have to go to the hospital. To my surprise, some individuals testify that their pain is at level ten on a daily basis. They usually say this after they have talked about the activities they do at home each day, and none of them talk about going to the hospital on a daily basis.  I do believe that some people may experience pain at a level ten and not be able to go to the hospital every time they do, but a judge is going to find it hard to believe that a person can experience pain that severe on a daily basis without being hospitalized regularly.

In my practice, I find that one of the best things I can provide to the ALJ to show that you are unable to work is a written statement from your doctor giving her professional opinion about the restrictions caused by your disabilities.  If your doctor says that you are restricted in sitting, standing, walking, or lifting, it can help show that you are unable to perform a full day of work activities.  Your doctor can also give his opinion about problems you may have pushing, pulling, and manipulating objects.  If your treating physician states that you would miss too many days of work each month due to your symptoms or your treatments, or that you are unable to work an eight hour day, or that you simply cannot work due to your disabling condition(s),  it may enhance your chances of winning your claim.

In summary, while good medical records can be the key to a successful outcome, I believe that your truthful testimony matters as well.  Be realistic about the pain you experience, and attempt to let the judge know the specific ways it impacts your life.  While the judge and I can look at MRI results and doctors’ diagnoses, those records cannot adequately describe the pain you experience every day.  Your solid, credible testimony is the only way to let the judge know how your pain is disabling to you.

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